Year in Review: 2016

2016/12/31

casey

2016 was worse than 2015. You already knew that. 2017 will be worse.  I have a suspicion that next year will outdo this year in terms of celebrity deaths.  I think that kind of thing will track population growth.  I have a justified belief that next year will be worse than this year in terms of the political sphere.

2017’s going to suck, but I’ll talk about that next year.

I had plenty of things that sucked this year, and I bet you did too.  I had a post written up saying what I went through this year, and tried to make something hopeful-sounding out of it. But then I decided I didn’t want to air all that stuff.  If you already know what things sucked for me, that’s because I wanted you to know.

What I will share is that I didn’t publish as much this year. I hope I do more next year.  Here’s a roundup of everything I did:

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Dumpster Vinyl

I posted one digitized disc. One is more than zero!

I made fan art for a public service campaign that was part of a commercial radio package, meaning that it was probably heard only a few times by a few people, many of whom are now dead.

Miss EBS is not dead; she lives on in my heart.

And she can live on your wall, too, for only $23 plus shipping!

I have started digitizing discs again. I try to do it on Sundays, because Sundays are a time when I go a little stir crazy. I’ve also been doing some research on these.

You’ll see.

YOU’LL ALL SEE

Jimmy Jone

I do actually feel bad about not doing more Jimmy Jone. I had honestly planned to have posted four more issues than I did this year. But I got anxious and told myself the stories weren’t good enough, that the art wasn’t good enough. But every time I make comics, that feeling makes me make them better.

I released two issues, a Part One and a Part Two. I am proud of these!

Blogging

I did a couple of series of blog posts on things that have long been questions in the back of my mind. Now they are answered! I thought that the Cosmopolitan series would be an easy way to put up a post every week, but then I actually dug into it and had to do research and real writing.

Matt Groening’s signature was in Simpsons Illustrated more than once per issue, which is really all that was needed.

Cosmopolitan has cleavage on the cover because once apes started standing up, you couldn’t see and access the vaginas as easily.

Perfect Strangers

Perfect Strangers is a show about two grown men who spend all their time fighting with each other because once apes started standing up, you couldn’t see and access the vaginas as easily.

I am almost halfway done reviewing that show, and… damn, I’m not even halfway done reviewing that show. It’s still a very rewarding experience for me. Just like the webcomic, it’s proof to myself that I am capable and funny. Every week I have an existential crisis about how well I can write and whether there is a limited number of jokes, or of academic theories, in me.  I have the crisis, I write the review, I realize it’s good. As Balki might say, blather, wrench, repeat.

But I’ve kept at it. I achieved escape velocity from season 2. I posted every week. I wrote 51 posts. I threatened the families of respected academics to get them to write the other two. I’m very proud of my 6,000-word historiography of the first three years of the show.

I’m going to keep doing it. It keeps me regular.  Haha, that is a joke about pooping. I actually do get constipated.

I have 86 episodes left.

Music

I’m mentioning this because it was on my 2016 preview list. I did continue to listen to years’ worth of music. I finished 1984 (no post yet, give me time) and I’m just about done with 1976.  I… may or may not write about these. I realize I don’t have much to say other than “these are my favorite songs”.  I figure eventually, I’ll try to tackle every year in the 1970s and 1980s.  but next on my list is 1988, and, uh, I wasn’t thinking initially about how there are more albums each year. I will be listening to 1988 all through 2017.

Toys

Another thing on last year’s preview list. I did ramble on incoherently about some toys!

I have more toys; I need to get a good camera and a lightbox. I also need to finish some of these sets.  The toys I’m into are pretty rare, and it takes a long time to get a complete set of them. There’s also this idea that I’m holding onto that tells me I have to do them in a particular order. So, you know, if that’s what you want to see more of, let me know and buy me a lightbox.

Other

I made some promotional art for the Noiseless Chatter Xmas Bash!!!! If you buy a thing (print, duvet, leggings), the profits will go to the Trevor Project.

Year in Preview: 2017

  • More Perfect Strangers Reviewed. I’ll reach the halfway point, no matter whether you go by number of seasons or number of episodes. I am also working on a special livestream event to happen after I’m finished with season 4, likely late March/early April.
  • More Jimmy Jone. As in, real soon. January 17th will be the 10th anniversary of the publication of Jimmy Jone. I have four complete issues to give you. I plan to write a post about the anniversary, and I may even be able to have one special feature kind of thing to accompany the event. After that, I’m working on a four-part story that will get us close to the halfway point of the whole comic.
  • #moviepuke . This is actually something I’ve already done. It’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever made. But I don’t want to talk about it yet, because it’s not finished. Sort of. There might be news with it in 2017. I’ll certainly write about it. We’ll see.
  • More blog posts. I’m going to be upfront and state that these are things I’d like to write about. No promises, though.
    • Dumpster Vinyl. Like I say, I’m digitizing still. I have ~150 discs more to digitize. I also need to buy a record player that can play 78s, because I can record a 78 at 45 speed, but when I try to speed it up in Audacity, it sounds like poop.
    • Problematic “sequels” and problematic conclusions for media that took a long time to be “finished”. Stuff like Fight Club 2 or Shock Treatment. Stuff like Jack Kirby’s Hunger Dogs. You know, stuff you haven’t read or seen.
    • Toys. Buy me a lightbox.
    • Trading cards. I really like trading cards as a format, and even though crowdfunding could herald a new age of trading card sets that reflect an artist’s vision as opposed to a business model, I think the format has had its heyday. And because I like trading cards so much, I want to showcase some of the absolute worst pieces of shit that were ever committed to cardstock.
    • Music?
  • A couple of comic projects? I joined a comics Meetup group, and the guy running it wanted to do a 12-page collaborative comic. I offered to write it and wrote probably 18 pages’ worth of jokes. Also, if you followed me on Twitter or Facebook this past year, you probably saw me doing the 100 Days of Making Comics Challenge. That group is going to try to put out an anthology, so I’ll make a comic for that.  If either of these things comes to fruition, you’ll see it here.
  • Fix the damn coding on http://www.jimmyjone.com once and for all.

Projects I’ll probably never get to, even if having had an organ transplant hadn’t significantly shortened my life expectancy

Last year’s list, plus:

A third Dr. Phibes story in comic form called “Black Vulnavia” where Dr. Phibes hires a black woman to be his assistant and some damn how has another group of people he wants to take revenge on.

Vocabulary study of the Billboard Hot 100 singles.

Sliders fanfic script that ties up all the loose ends from Season 4 and brings back Maximillian Arturo because he’s still alive dammit.

Citation analysis-style study of pop culture references in MAD Magazine and Cracked Mazagine.

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2016 sucked, and it sucked way more for people who don’t share my skin color or genitals. 2017 looks like it’s going to be the same, or worse. Let me know what I can do other than continue writing about how Perfect Strangers hates women.

Saturday morning addendum:

I wrote this a week ago, and I’ll admit I do sound pretty down. I’ve been pretty down. I do actually have good things going on for me that are unrelated to the work I do.  I’m making more connections, I’m trying to get things together, I’m doing things that legitimately make me happy. I was on a pretty big high through all of 2015 from getting the kidney transplants, and 2016 saw that wane. I thought I had my all of my shit finally together, and I felt some good mastery over parts of my life.  I’ve hit some walls this year, but that’s no reason to give up on trying to scale them. I imagine that’s the way it works, though, right? You struggle through the first Zelda dungeon until you get a new weapon, and it serves you really well until you get to the next dungeon, and  you struggle again.  The best I can offer for a message of “hope” is that, if you feel like giving up, sit on it for a little bit to see how much of it’s brain chemicals, and don’t give up without a damn good reason.

See you in… 10 days, I think? I’ll give you Jimmy Jone stuff.

The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 32

2016/12/24

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Similar to the Simpsons Illustrated series, this was just a way for me to try to answer/exorcise questions that have been in the back of my mind for some time now.  Reference librarian that I am, I’ve been trained to look for the question-behind-the-question, because often what we ask is not what we really want to know; it’s what we think will tell us what we want to know.  With Simpsons Illustrated, the question I asked was “how many times does Matt Groening’s signature appear”; the real question was “how many times did it need to appear?”.  The answer to the first question is 108, or almost 11 per issue; the answer to the second question is “not nearly that many, you’d think”.

For Cosmopolitan, the first question (“does it always”) was covering the other, more crucial one (“why”). I feel like I must have guessed at the why after my undergraduate college career, especially once I’d taken the Psychology of Women course. But, like I’ve been saying since the beginning, you have to verify these things, find out whether the opposite is true, before you can be confident in what you “know”. So the “why” of it turns out to have answers at multiple levels: the consumer level, the writer level, the editor level, the publisher level, the business level. When you put all those answers together, you do get a bleak picture. Businesses have an interest in upholding the status quo because businesses are a part of the status quo.  They want to propagate ideas that keep them in the black. Businesses have long traditions of hiring psychologists to work on advertising.  If you can make someone feel they have some lack, you can get them to buy the fix for it. In the words of Mr. Boogalow from the 1980 film The Apple:

Cultivate a need/ Grab them by the greed/ Slaves are guaranteed

Publishers and editors know that their job is to keep their bosses making money, and they know what will sell magazines. And when you factor in that many women don’t actually read the magazines, well, what are they taking in from it?  Images, promises, bold statements (the ones they see and the ones they hope to say). And, well, those parts of the magazines seem to be getting more gendered over time. And if the idea that people don’t even engage with the light reading they pick up, how can we expect them to seek out good information to make better choices for their diets, for their love lives, for their *sigh* political engagement?

This might be a good time to mention that I did pick up one of these magazines once (I want to say it was Cosmopolitan, but I’m not certain) and looked through one of those articles that promised 153 (or some high number) of sex tips.  There weren’t 153 discrete tips. There were 153 sentences.

I’m 32, and so is this series.  Cosmopolitan will continue to publish covers with celebrities showing cleavage, and I’ll continue to like cleavage. No big surprise there, right? We’d like to think that history tends liberal; that intellect tends liberal; that the universe is bending towards equality.  Rhajon N. Colson-Smith might disagree with you, at least in terms of what business selling messages do.  And I’m sure you know plenty of people who would love for the opposite to be true.

The truth is, as the globe becomes more connected, fewer and fewer people need to be thinkers and innovators for everyone to benefit. And when fewer people are making their voices heard, the bigger ones win. The ones with money win. More money=more chances and ways to get your message out.

How many articles/comics/videos/photographs have you shared on Facebook over the past year?

How many have you written/drawn/made?

If you feel I’m criticizing you, maybe I am. Maybe you deserve it. Maybe I’m just another American white cishet male with a degree and a career and a full set of working limbs and organs telling you what’s what when it’s not my place. But I’d like to think that I’m saying this as much to myself as anyone else:

You’re part of this world. Engage with it.

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Boner count: Haha sorry wrong blog

Bibliography:

Alexander, Katina. (1990). Cosmo’s queen of cleavage makes no apologies. Orange County Register, O01.

Baker, Christina N. (2005). Images of women’s sexuality in advertisements: a content analysis of black- and white-oriented women’s and men’s magazines. Sex Roles, 52(1/2), 13-27.

Colson-Smith, Rhajon N. (2005). Look Younger, Lose 10 Pounds, and Influence Your Audience: A Content Analysis of Popular Men’s and Women’s Magazine Cover Blurbs and the Messages They Project to Their Readers. (Thesis). East Tennessee State University, Johnson City.

Gough-Yates, Anna. (2003). Understanding Women’s Magazines. London: Routledge.

Smith, Stephanie. (2008). The science of covers: celebs, cleavage and sparkle. Women’s Wear Daily, 195(3), 12.

The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 31

2016/12/18

How often did the cover of the US edition of Cosmopolitan feature cleavage? I realize that not everyone is going to define cleavage the way I do, so I’ll try to make a distinction for my list here.

Liberal count (conservative count–large part of area not shown and/or no visible shadow and/or blouse too high up)

1985 – 10 (9)

1986 – 11 (10)

1987 – 11

1988 – 12 (11)

1989 – 11

1990 – 12

1991 – 12

1992 – 12

1993 – 12

1994 – 11 (the 12th had a generous side shot)

1995 – 12 (10)

1996 – 11 (9)

1997 – 12 (11)

1998 – 12

1999 – 12

2000 – 12

2001 – 12

2002 – 12

2003 – 12

2004 – 12

2005 – 12

2006 – 12

2007 – 12

2008 – 12

2009 – 12

2010 – 12

2011 – 12

2012 – 12

2013 – 10

2014 – 10

2015 – 11 (10)

2016 – 10 (9)

So, for the span of my lifetime, Cosmopolitan has featured cleavage on its cover 96%/94% of the time (370/360 out of 384; the percentages do not change substantially if you include my birth month).  And for all that Kate White tried to downplay the cleavage (“winning” covers had them), note that she oversaw an unbroken run of cleavage in her 15 years of being Cosmopolitan‘s editor.

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The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 30

2016/12/11

Helen Gurley Brown left Cosmopolitan in 1997, and Kate White became editor-in-chief in 1998, keeping the position until 2012. Kate White was interviewed in 2008 by Stephanie Smith for Women’s Wear Daily.  I’m going to end the main portion of this series of mine (there’s two posts left) with two excerpts from Smith’s article.

Kate White […] said that, despite the magazine’s focus on sex, Cosmo’s cover girls don’t have to have huge cleavages. But a winning cover does include some. “It’s not about big breasts like it used to be. It’s just about showing off your breasts, whether they’re double As or whatever.” As for the woman carrying the breasts, White says the perfect Cosmo cover model is “someone that you’d love to drive cross country with, you’re not going to end up arrested with and with whom you’re not going to get bored.”

Don’t misunderstand her, though, the perfect cover model should also be one you’d want to fuck:

“My sense of a good cover that will sell well is if I want to lick it,” said Cosmo’s White. “And the Beyoncé [December 2007] cover I licked several times before the sun came up.” Another sign that a cover is a winner? “If I dance with it, or if I feel the urge to make out with it, then I’m like, ‘Wow, it works!'”

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The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 29

2016/12/04

Gough-Yates (2003) ended her summary of scholarly engagement with women’s magazines with a call for researchers to investigate the producers of the magazines themselves. I won’t report on the rest of her book, Understanding Women’s Magazines: Publishing, Markets and Readerships, and do I even need to find any articles about how sex and skin sell magazines? But I will take a brief look at what the producers of Cosmopolitan have said.

Helen Gurley Brown, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan from 1965 through 1997, was interviewed in 1990 by Katina Alexander of the Orange County Register. I think I’ll let Brown’s words speak for themselves (speak themselves?):

“I want to sell magazines and I think we want to see pretty
girls,” says Helen Gurley Brown….

“I think breasts are wonderful,” Brown was saying. “I wish I were bosomier; that would be great. I think everyone likes to look at cleavage. I certainly do. It’s pretty. And I have no apology for that.

“We don’t have the girl-next-door on the cover of Cosmo.

“We use somebody who is much more technically gorgeous, and I have no apology for that either.

“I want to sell magazines.”

I asked if these models were an example for a reader, something she should aspire to.

“She’s supposed to enjoy looking at the covers, as I do. They (the models) are probably the ideal of feminine beauty in our country at the time.

“And you can’t aspire to that, Katina, but you can do a lot better. You really can look quite glorious, no matter who you are, you know, for a particular night or day you get your makeup on and your hair done and you wear pretty clothes.”

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The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 28

2016/11/27

Before I move on to what Gough-Yates called for as the next stage of research, I’d like to take a moment to call attention to race. It’s likely that at some point over the past few months you read about how some (many?) black women did not feel that Hillary Clinton was a candidate who would (could) represent them and their interests.  And, yeah, I’ve overlooked this aspect so far myself. Think how many problems this brings up, though, at every point of the history of scholarly criticism of women’s magazines.  Positive/negative images? Well, they were all white for a long while there, so black must be really negative. Magazines as tools of the patriarchy? Shit, white women themselves have been tools of the patriarchy for a long time (*cough* suffragists *cough*).  Conversations about thorny social issues? I’m going to refer back to the covers to give you an indication of who we’re being told are having these conversations.

Christina Baker (2005) may have found that 11.5% of Cosmopolitan‘s readers were black, but I invite you to scroll down the page and see if the covers match that percentage.

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The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 27

2016/11/20

So let’s sum up the history of scholarship on feminist magazines:

Nobody looks like that! These are unrealistic images of women!

Sure, but that’s not the magazine’s fault; women wouldn’t buy it if they didn’t identify with it. Magazines are just one of many tools.

…of the patriarchy, yeah.

Okay, well, maybe these magazines are starting to address real issues that women face?

And offering them solutions that don’t rock the boat (the patriarchy boat)!

*sigh* You’re right.  Ms. is better than most, though, right?

Yes, Ms. is okay.

Well, maybe women are still thinking for themselves past the pat solutions offered?

….yeah, no, sounds like they don’t even read the damn things; they just treat them like lottery tickets. You buy one so you can think of what you’d be like if you could be perfect and have everything.

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The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 26

2016/11/13

Feminism (and feminist critique) have among their goals the empowerment and freedom of women, right? So in the 1980s, researchers began to counter all of the above by saying that perhaps readers were making their own meaning; that perhaps they themselves were critiquing the magazines even while consuming them. Let’s take this idea further–that women are strong enough that something like a magazine can’t harm them in some deep way.  Just how each generation’s ideology and how it’s communicated to the masses differs, so too does the way each generation responds to it.  So, sure, let’s look at the readers!  Joke Hermes interviewed a number of women in the early 90s to gauge their interaction with women’s magazines.  (For the sake of how much time I’m willing commit to a series on boobs I stared at in the grocery store, I am simply summarizing Gough-Yates’s treatment of Hermes’s study; though really I should have tracked down Hermes’s book Reading Women’s Magazines.)  What Hermes found was that the magazines functioned as a way for women to envision ideal versions of themselves.

Her interviewees often seemed to have very little to say at all about the magazines themselves, talking much more about how the magazines they read fitted into their daily routines. In fact, readers gave meanings to women’s magazines which Hermes found to be quite independent of the text….

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The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 25

2016/11/06

In the late 1970s, says Gough-Yates, the discussion had moved from women’s magazines as tool of ideological mouthpiece to place of ideological “negotiation”.  That is, as feminism itself was on the rise, women’s magazines seemed to offer more articles on the topics addressed by feminists: gender inequality in all levels of society, be they in the family or workplace or political arenas.  The magazines would discuss these topics, but would offer practical solutions that were typically along the lines of individual responsibility, which I’d argue was part of a larger shift towards atomized morality (another story for another day).  In other words, and I’m reading between Gough-Yates’s lines here, is that the internal conflicts of women (should I obey my husband or fight for my rights–sorry for being reductive) were externalized.  Sure, the reader could get a chance to think about the issues she and her contemporaries faced, but someone else was limiting the conversation to simply what she could do alone. The discussion was externalized; thus the solution was as well.  Radical views–and solutions–were not addressed.  On the whole, said the feminist academic community at the time, women’s magazines “lack[ed] the substance needed to effect meaningful change in either wider society or the magazine genre itself.”  Except for Ms., though. Ms. was pretty great.

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The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 24

2016/10/31

The next round of scholars took a page from Louis Althusser’s ideas of ideology, saying that ideology is practiced by society. In other words, the ideology (of what women should be) existed already, and not only were the magazines fixing it and normalizing it in the process of dissemination, but women were practicing it as well, and would see in the magazines a reflection of their own lives. The criticism remained–these were feminist scholars, after all–that the magazines were (merely) a tool in the hands of the patriarchy.

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