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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.

                     T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

21 January 2008


Told ya so (see post below)! We have moved to WordPress and standard blog format. Check things out and bookmark the new location. See you there.


[Posted 4:00pm est]

19 January 2008
Changes in the offing.
As I suggested in the last posting of 2007, Mermaids Singing will be moving to a pure blog format, with a new name likely as well to make the whole effort a fresh start. Hang in there. I'll try to make it worth the wait.


[Posted 11:59am edt]

14 January 2008
Today is yesterday, Last week, in fact.
Everything went to hell and beyond for kindly old Mr. Curtin and his trusty computer on Friday morning last. We be back but the time lost and much still to be done to make sure it don't happen again never no more means that posting will be light for a bit. Hang in there.

Did you know there are actually 24 hours in a day, lots of hours to do stuff rather than fritter them away wandering around in etherspace and such? You can even read books, take a walk, engage in human contact.

'Tis a revelation.

Wish I had more time to think about it but I have 300 plus emails to catch up on and things to do that were overdue Friday afternoon...


[Posted 5:00pm est]

This message has been cross-posted.

8 January 2008

I. Will. Be. Damned.
There is really nothing else I can say.


[Posted 11:30pm edt]

4 January 2008

"In this moment...we are ready to believe again."
I'm not ready to succumb to Obama-mania just yet, but that was a helluva victory speech last night, wasn't it? Echoes of Jack Kennedy and Bill Clinton at their best.

What makes me nervous about Obama, aside from his youth (and it pains me that youth has suddenly become a question for me, yet another sign that I grow old, I grow old), is that he still seems to believe that it would be possible to maintain an effective working relationship with the current GOP leadership in Congress...or anywhere else. Whichever Democrat is the next president of the United States must understand that any such relationship will be impossible; that the right wing scream machine will continue to lie, distort and mislead the hardcore haters to oppose his (or her) efforts in every way, that you cannot, should not, must not try to achieve conciliation with those who are not--not ever--conciliatory.

Unless there is something of a clean sweep in 2008, a new Congress with a solid Democratic majority in both Senate and House, the division, the stalemates, the ineffectiveness and frustration and blame game will continue.

The good news, of course, is that such a Congress is eminently possible.

The GOP, reaping the Burden of Bush, is in real disarray. At this point, they are stumbling and bumbling toward John McCain as their candidate, a man embraced by no significant segment of the electorate aside from the national press corps which has an apparently unshakable love for the old straight shooter. Oddly enough, because of that love affair and other factors we will discuss soon, at this point McCain is probably the strongest candidate that the Republicans can put forth, a real oddity in that he, of the whole sorry lot of contenders, is the one who is most at odds, in sum, with virtually ever element of the party.

Or is that anomaly, the unloved but inevitable candidate, perhaps merely the reflection of how off course, how tired, how utterly failed the message and the face of the Republican party has become today?

All this is, or should be, merely conjecture at this point. It was only Iowa, for god's sake, and it's still ten months until Election Day.

Consider that Hillary Clinton was once the "inevitable" Democratic candidate and Rudy Giuliani was being predicted as the unlikely standard-bearer for the GOP as recently as Christmas week. He may be toast, but she's not going anywhere. I'd guess that the Democratic Party establishment will eventually line up behind her, while the GOP power guys will, in desperation to stop Huckabee and their Fundamentalist wing which seems to have forgotten that its votes are all the Party really wants from them, will slink into the McCain camp. Mitt and his big bucks are still going to be players on that side of the ledger as well.

A lot can still happen. A lot will still happen.

The fact is, Obama last night was, brilliantly, only doing what candidates do, taking the moment and trying and make it the reality, assuming total victory in the hopes of turning it into destiny. The ultimate die is far from cast as yet.

But it was a helluva speech.


[Posted 10:15am edt]

2 January 2008

When hope died.
As we stand here on the precipice, waiting for a miniscule number of Iowa farmers to decide our fates by providing the fodder for the political media to decide who the "viable" candidates will be, I have sunk into a mixture of anger, despair and emerging ennui.

More and more, this nation's day-to-day history unfolds like a bad sitcom, only with torture and lies.

My mood wasn't improved a whit when, yesterday, Bob Herbert, who is one of the chattering class that I find difficult to read because he so often misses the point (which, of course, is almost a requisite qualification for writing on the New York Times Opinion pages these days), recalled 65 days in the history of the nation from four decades back, a time of events which changed the nation and its history:

On April 3, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis. Violence erupted in dozens of cities, and especially in Washington, where a number of people were killed and the fires were the worst the city had experienced since the British took the torch to it in 1814.

John J. Lindsay of Newsweek magazine said that when Bobby Kennedy was told that King had died, he put his hands to his face and murmured: "Oh, God. When is this violence going to stop?"

Kennedy himself was murdered two months later. I remember people not knowing what to say. The madness had been unleashed, and there seemed no way to rein it in.

There was much more to come, more war, the orgy of police violence at the Democratic convention in Chicago, the razor-thin election of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew over Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie in November.

But an awful lot of people tuned out after Kennedy was killed. That seemed to be when, for so many, the hope finally died. The nation has never really recovered from the bullet that killed R.F.K.

We apparently shall not see such men again. That bullet wounds us still.


[Posted 6:00pm edt]

1 January 2008

In lieu of 1,000 words.

I love
Dog Eat Doug. Sophie may not be Snoopy, but she's the dog philosopher for the 21st Century.


[Posted 9:00am edt]

Recently In "Comments."

RE: "I just went out to dinner with 18 close friends I'd never met before."

On Monday, December 31, 2007, Tim Fitzpatrick wrote:
In regard to "...and Allan Lappin, the guy who created the ultimate Comics Forum lapel pin, a comic word balloon with the words 'What do you read, what do you enjoy?'":

In the interest of accuracy, the comic word balloon with the "CF" Superman shield was designed by your pal and mine, Rob Davis; Allan coined the infamous "WDYR, WDYE?" question, and I magnificently put them all together to create the Comics Forum pins, collect the set. In true comics form, a collaborative effort.

Jack: Yes, it happened exactly that way. I had forgotten all the particulars. Or maybe, given who and what I am, I just always come down on the side of the writer in any collaborative effort.


30 December 2007

The days dwindle down...
This will be the last Mermaids post of 2007. Had things gone as I had planned, it might well have been the last Mermaids post ever.

I was planning to shut this almost-a-blog (to quote a friend) down as of tomorrow and greet the New Year with a new, WordPress blog run from this site or, as things stood earlier this week, from the WordPress site itself.

Isn't going to happen. That's partially because I've been too busy to really master WordPress and get it going right, partially because I may be too dumb to figure out how to master WordPress and partially because, old dinosaur that I am, I really find myself clinging to this clunky, old dinosaur of a site and the (probably silly) method of hand-coding every damn thing, just because I have complete control over the whole mess. Comes to that, the final reason there may well account for the first two.

Anyway, here we are, right back when we started from. Or, more accurately, here we will be, come 2008 on Tuesday.

Even though our days here might turn out to be limited, I will be doing something to clean the place up a bit, weaning the links list for one thing, 'cause there are links on there that I haven't used in months, perhaps years in a few instances. For another, while I will probably leave the Comments Page in place, I will also render it sort of unnecessary. Not that it isn't already, given the limited comments we've drawn here. Now you might say there's little worth commenting on, but part of the idea of a comments section is for you to participate, to make things more comment-worthy with your own input. Anyway, starting next year (will this one ever end?), I'd be posting your comments, if any, here on the "front page" on a weekly, or more frequent basis. Or not. The ball is in your court.

Finally, so we don't end the year on all that self-referential and internal stuff, I've got a "what if?" political note from this morning's paper and an online end-of-year list for you.

Jonathan Last, a conservative columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, but not one of the nutso ones, so you'll probably not have heard his name (and speaking of "nustso," Bill "I've never gotten anything right yet but I do have a famous name" Kristol gets a New York Times opinion column? Jesus!), noted something I'd never even thought about in his weekly One Last Thing column today:

Proving once again that America got the wrong Bush brother as president, Jeb Bush wryly noted that "intellectual curiosity" is something "the next president of the United States is going to need to have." Imagine how much fun the holidays were at the Bush homestead.

Recall that George W. Bush won the White House by a margin of 537 votes in Florida only because in 1994 brother Jeb lost the Florida governor's race by 63,940 votes.

If Jeb had won that election - and Floridians were only delaying the inevitable; he took it in 1998 - then Jeb would have probably been the GOP nominee, and perhaps the president, in 2000. And George W. today would be a well-liked former governor in line to be next baseball commissioner. History: a game of inches.

Lord knows, Jeb would have been an improvement over his inept sibling. Then again, pretty much anybody would have been, aside from maybe most of the guys now running for the GOP nomination in 2008.

To quote Adlai Stevenson from way back in 1952, "where do they find these people?"

Another historical "what if?" having to with the 2000 election (possibly the event which will eventually be judged by history as marking the point when the U.S. began its Great Decline if the forces unleashed by that event continue to wreak havoc on our traditions and laws) is something I've been thinking about a lot recently with regard to the forthcoming 2008 "throw the bums out" expression of the popular will.

Like many, I'm disturbed, aside from all the other concerns about who is or isn't a good candidate, about the Bush-Clinton, Bush-(potentially)-Clinton back & forth which could possibly mean that the White House will be the personal fiefdom of two families for a stretch of 28 years. I still think that's a bad thing in general, but I've come to realize of late that, since George W. Bush did not, repeat did not, win the 2000 election (history will record that too, we all know it aside from the clowns in the wingnut bunkers), if that scenario takes place, it will not reflect a failure on the part of the system but instead reflect yet another consequence of the extraordinary right wing assault on the very soul of this nation which began with the election of the Newt ("I am a genius, really, I am") Gingrich House in 1994.

Then again, we get the government we deserve, do we not? They couldn't do it unless we let them. Which brings me to that online list I was talking about:The 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2007.

Guess who made the list:

9. You
You believe in freedom of speech, until someone says something that offends you. You suddenly give a damn about border integrity, because the automated voice system at your pharmacy asked you to press 9 for Spanish. You cling to every scrap of bullshit you can find to support your ludicrous belief system, and reject all empirical evidence to the contrary. You know the difference between patriotism and nationalism -- it's nationalism when foreigners do it. You hate anyone who seems smarter than you. You care more about zygotes than actual people. You love to blame people for their misfortunes, even if it means screwing yourself over. You still think Republicans favor limited government. Your knowledge of politics and government are dwarfed by your concern for Britney Spears' children. You think buying Chinese goods stimulates our economy. You think you're going to get universal health care. You tolerate the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques." You think the government is actually trying to improve education. You think watching CNN makes you smarter. You think two parties is enough. You can't spell. You think $9 trillion in debt is manageable. You believe in an afterlife for the sole reason that you don't want to die. You think lowering taxes raises revenue. You think the economy's doing well. You're an idiot.

Exhibit A: You couldn't get enough Anna Nicole Smith coverage.

Sentence: A gradual decline into abject poverty as you continue to vote against your own self-interest. Death by an easily treated disorder that your health insurance doesn't cover. You deserve it, chump.

The whole thing is fun reading and it skewers just about everybody you might wish, from Nicole Richie at #50 on through the likes of (not in this order necessarily) including Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, Tim Russert, Britney Spears, Mitt Romney, Chris Matthews, Anne Coulter, Alberto Gonzales, Dana Perino (In a nation weary of White House press secretaries who feign ignorance, the Bush administration took an innovative step this year, appointing one who genuinely doesn't know anything), Lou Dobbs, Bud Selig and Nancy Pelosi & Harry Reid (a tandem entry), finishing up with The Obvious Suspects at #2 & 1:
2. Dick Cheney
Worst president ever. So openly horrible, he now makes jokes about being Darth Vader. Unashamedly advocating for executive abuse of power and corporate theft. In and out of public office since his congressional internship during the Nixon Administration. Didn't care about the quagmire he foresaw in '94, because since then he'd deftly maneuvered to profit from it. Polling lower than HPV.

Exhibit A: His Halliburton stock options rose 3000% in value from 2004-2005. No joke.

[ ... ]

1. George W. Bush
Is it a civil rights milestone to have a retarded president? Maybe it would be, if he were ever legitimately elected. You can practically hear the whole nation holding its breath, hoping this guy will just fucking leave come January '09 and not declare martial law. Only supporters left are the ones who would worship a fucking turnip if it promised to kill foreigners. Is so clearly not in charge of his own White House that his feeble attempts to define himself as "decider" or "commander guy" are the equivalent of a five-year-old kid sitting on his dad's Harley and saying "vroom vroom!" Has lost so many disgusted staffers that all he's left with are the kids from Jesus Camp. The first president who is so visibly stupid he can say "I didn't know what was in the National Intelligence Estimate until last week" and sound plausible. Inarguably a major criminal and a much greater threat to the future of America than any Muslim terrorist.

What they said.

And Happy New Year.


[Posted 5:30pm edt]

28 December 2007

"I just went out to dinner with 18 close friends I'd never met before."
There's an extraordinary
online wake currently going on for a very nice man named Paul Grant, who died too young on November 20. The word of his demise first became public this week and it has inspired a re-gathering of a whole passel of people who used to gather together pretty much daily in the CompuServe Comics and Animation Forum back in the early days of the internet, a time when, as Heidi MacDonald (a Downingtown girl way back in the day) wrote, "just having an email address made you special."

You can read for yourselves the original post by site host John Ostrander, one of the finest comics writers of the '90s, and learn about the man we all knew as Zeus and what a fine man he was. If you read through the comments which follow, you'll see that reaffirmed again and again and also experience the joy tinged with sadness of so many people finally finding one another again.

I am reminded of the lyrics to a favorite song, Bob Dylan's Dream:

I dreamed a dream that made me sad,
Concerning myself and the first few friends I had.

[ ... ]

We thought we could sit forever in fun
But our chances really was a million to one.

The world changed, the internet changed and we all went our separate ways. It's the pattern of life, truth be told. This moment we are now experiencing may be just that, a passing moment, and once the nostalgia has passed and we've talked about what we used to talk about more than once or twice, we may all find that we have nothing to say to one another, that we are different people in a different time.

If somebody does find a way to create a place where we can see if we can really reconnect, you bet I'll be there.

The heading for this post, you'll see if you've read the comments section on the Ostrander site, comes from a fellow named John Sardegna and I'm pretty sure that dinner he's talking about happened in a second floor Chinatown restaurant in Philadelphia back in the early '90s, the same weekend as the gathering at my home which I talked about in my own comments.

That was the weekend I met several people who've become long-standing friends, among them Tim Fitzpatrick, who created the software and provides the technical support for my comics mail order business (several old CIS-ers are customers), and Allan Lappin, the guy who created the ultimate Comics Forum lapel pin, a comic word balloon with the words "What do you read, what do you enjoy?". Tim and his wife and baby son stayed at our house, as did Carl Pietrantonio, who has showed up at my door many times since, the most recent being a trip he took across the country to spend four days helping me move, an act of friendship so amazing that it still leaves me semi-verklempt when I try to describe it to people without my voice cracking.

I met Rob Davis, with whom I have done The Dubya Chronicles since January 20, 2001, on the Forum and then physically in San Diego at the annual Comic-Con. I got to (electronically) talk with several prominent comics writers in the Forum, among them Ostrander, Neil Gaiman and Peter David. I probably did more interviews with and stories about Gaiman than any other creator during five or six years writing in the comics industry and, when I went to Ireland back in 1992, he recommended a place to stay which was one of the highlights of the trip. I got to tell Peter David that a big surprise he had planned for a title he'd just taken over had been blown on the internet (I never did tell him that I thought the leaked story was way off base and was stunned by his reaction which told me it was real).

Knowing those sorts of emerging stars helped me make my contact to write for Wizard Magazine, back when writing for it was more, um, journalistic than it later became. My way in the door was Patrick Daniel O'Neill, a Forum member and, as far as I know, still a resident of Delaware county, roughly 45 minutes from where I'm writing this. There was a stretch there where Paul, a guy named Craig "Mr. Silver Age" Shutt and I wrote a good 60% or more of every issue before we were sent packing. In my comments on the Ostrander site, I tell the story of one assignment which I had to give up to Paul, only to get another equally as good (in terms of the "star quality" of the interviewee).

Another local Forum member, Jeff Lang, put me in touch with Patty Jeres, then the one-woman publicity department for DC Comics, leading to three or four years of my writing one or two, even three on one occasion, interviews or stories for them about forthcoming titles (accounting for a lot of that Gaiman material as I became the go-to Vertigo guy when that more adult imprint was in its heyday). And it was Jeff and wife Katie Fritz who invited me downtown to a meeting of comics folks early on.

I could go on and on with this, pouring out names and stories that most of you would find baffling, so I will behave and stop here. Just know that a good man has died and all who knew him came to love him and, even though we, most of us, drifted out of his orbit, or he ours, we are all saddened, and lessened, by his passing.

He is now, truly, "Zeus on the Loose" and his "View From Olympus" will remain clear and bright forevermore.

Rest well, old friend.


[Posted 6:50pm edt]

The complete December 2007 postings have been archived here.

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