The Silver Reaches Of The Estuary

Or: “Secret Secret Wars”


If you were waiting for it, here it is. Fair warning, though: not only is this ground well-trodden, but it’s been well-trodden by people a lot smarter and better-educated than I am, and honestly I’m not sure I’m up to the task of covering it. It’s actually much too big a topic for me. Why it would take someone like Dave Fiore to grapple with it for real…

However. I will endeavour to do my best. So…

It begins, as these things often do, with an ending. Sometime in the late Sixties, by all accounts I’ve read, Stan Lee had the nerve to ask Jack Kirby this fan-fic question:

“What would happen if the Fantastic Four fought God?

I recently viewed the Nineties re-issue of the 1967 Thor cartoon feature, prefaced by some remarks from Sneaky Stan, no doubt located someplace near the Grotto of the Playboy Mansion at that time…in which he said that it was his idea to wonder about what some “New Gods” would look like, translated into comics form…

And let me blow your mind for just a minute, Bloggers: because is it not possible, even considering Jack Kirby’s own reminiscences, that it was freakin’ Smilin’ Stan who put that idea into his head, or at least supplied the accidentally-missing puzzle-piece to what Kirby had been working up to all along?

Is it so impossible to believe that Jack thought “ridiculous, Stan…but wait HEY WAIT A MINUTE…!”

Anyway we have the Galactus Trilogy, probably the most reverberative Marvel Comics ever made. Space-Jehovah appears in the sky like the detonation of an ideational bomb, and pieces of conceptual debris fly off everywhere…susbsequently, they rain down on everything. I, too (declares the Silver Surfer), can unleash forces that can never be leashed again…

And so: FIRST PAGE SPLASH! In which we introduce our thesis, i.e. that it’s a degenerate fiction only, that can release the seeds of future imaginative fruit. By rotting away their membranous cage, you see? Or perhaps I should say: beyond the obvious potency of the disciplined narrative, focussed, rigourously discursive, and intentional, there’s a whole world of para-values whose only yardstick is the ordinal measurement, where though the compass spins in search of its attractor, the cardinal directions have fallen off of its dial. A world without degrees: a world comprised only of a million unlogged associations.

And language in general is like this, too. I’ve mentioned synaesthesia before — the most common form of which is the artful (I say artful because I feel it’s artful) confusion of numbers with colours — but part of the reason why I’ve decided synaesthesia is a lot more common than we generally believe it to be is that words are also subject to synaesthetic confusions — “artful” confusions — that may be the result of a multitude of untracked associations, or may not. Take, for example, the word “shark” — to (at least) native speakers of English, this word verges on onomatopoeia: maybe it’s the combination of the sibilant “sh-” and the hard “k”…or the near-homonym it makes with “sharp”…or maybe it’s even the “r” in shark, which so nearly evokes the utterance “hard ‘k'” all on its own…but shark sounds sharp, to us. Shark sounds like jagged teeth tearing at crunchy meat. And, is this all that surprising? In evolutionary terms, we commonly assume words to have come out of primate sound-cries (Sound-Cries Of The Living Dead Man!), sounds compelling alertness to environmental (or social) changes…kind of like sign language for the mouth. Some basic signals from this part of our animal heritage probably survive unaltered even in our more evolved suite of human expressions: we still point at objects we wish others to take note of, for example. We still yell to get attention. Okay, so we don’t try to tell anyone there’s a forest fire by doing a big dance that acts out what the fire does, or by making “fire sounds”, but even if our use of worded language now depends almost exclusively on associational (and inter-associational!) cues we pick up in our early childhood, it seems silly to argue that poetry (for example) operates independently of the Weak Onomatopoeic Principle I’m advocating here. “The silver reaches of the estuary“, I would tell my tut-ees, when I’d exhausted every other approach to enabling their comprehension of poetry. “Doesn’t that sound like something to you?”

With art, it’s pretty obvious: things that look like things, act on our perceptions in the same way as do the things they look like. Association is straightforward, in art.

In language, though, it’s a little more shifty. “Shifty,” now what does that sound like? Unlogged, untraced influences are everywhere in our linguistic associational matrix: in the neural network (for that’s precisely what it is!) of our speech-decoding ability. But, if that’s all there were, couldn’t anything mean anything? But then what of the silver reaches of the estuary?

Synaesthesia seems to me to be the same thing. There are associations to be made in the purely sensory range, too: a kind of almost-language, if you will, of shapes and colours and attachments of relationship.

Or, okay: it may be a matter of the origin-points again. People have favourite colours, for example. But why should we have favourite colours? It’s a question that evolutionary biology can’t yet answer. There is the ability to associate, perhaps ultimately arising out of the evolutionary necessity of being able to recognize faces, or to theorize about the inner states of other social animals…which is rooted in our common bodily construction. But then there is also the infinite webwork of preferences, even of aptitudes, which is not necessarily rooted the same way. Music is the best example of this: music is universal, but some perceptual translations of music are common, and some are rare. And you can’t put that down to the neural net of inter-association, at least you can’t do so with any confidence. At a certain point, the origin of our response to qualia becomes utterly mysterious: we cannot say that it is associational, but we cannot say it’s instead something called “cannot-say”, without really saying nothing at all into the bargain.

In short, there will always be something to us, which is left undiscovered.

Hey…bored yet?

Well, the complexities of our sensory/apperceptive suite were built up over a few billion years of blind incremental accident, so it’d be foolish to expect anyone not to be bored with any off-handed attempt to sum them up, I guess. Suffice it to say that all of us who actually use this suite (rather than attempt to tweeze apart the layers of its mechanism) should be familiar with the realization that there are conventional patterns of association, as well as unconventional ones, and that they’re all nonetheless covered by the big umbrella of human “pattern-making”. And even in Arcadia, you know…well, here we are. Cogito ergo sum. The pattern is us: man vs. world. Somewhere outside deconstruction and semiotics, outside philosophy and science and religion and history, there’s the fluctuation of the ocean, the emptiness of the desert, the gloom of the necropolis, the poignancy of the night sky. The taste of dirt; the sound of rain; the yellow eye of the Sun. The silver reaches of the estuary.

A kind of chaos, to which we supply a kind of order. By the magic trinity of sight, choice, and accident.

Jim Woodring says everybody sees ghosts, you know: flashes of green faces, at the periphery of vision.

I say the number “eight” is coloured indigo, calm and cool.

We all share the tearing jagged teeth of “shark”. And the knowledge that “Clair De Lune” is beautiful.

And then there’s the love of pretend stories that never happened. Which is beyond universal.

Hold on, I’m about to get somewhere.

In his excellent “The Cheese And The Worms”, Carlo Ginzburg recounts the history of an Italian miller jokingly called “Menocchio” by his friends and neighbours: a literate man with a passion for books, who nonetheless couldn’t help decoding the written word in the style of the oral tradition he was born into. Confronted with a hundred different texts saying a hundred different things on the same subject, to him it seemed supremely natural to sift them together, and find the “real” meaning that together they concealed, as the broken pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope together conceal the “real” image of the thing beheld. But then this also led him to novel conclusions absolutely unintended, and frankly unimagined, by the authors of the books he studied. So novel were his ideas, in fact, that he was tortured by the Roman Inquisition for them: they wanted to let him go, you see, but he just wouldn’t recant. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He thought he’d found The Answer. He insisted that (for example) the Holy Spirit entered the Host of Communion. Crazy talk, Menocchio. It’s the hot iron for you, I’m afraid. Poor deluded bastard.

Of course, centuries later Philip Jose Farmer would create “Doc Savage: His Life And Times”, Stan Lee would create the “Fantastic Four Fan Page”, Warren Ellis and John Cassaday would create “Planetary”, and Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill would create “League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier” (actually Alan created a bunch of stuff like that, but let’s just limit our examples, shall we? Otherwise we’ll be here all night).

Followers, all. But! In a grand tradition.

That is to say, in the tradition of fiction itself. Because Menocchio was by no means the first, nor was he the last, to be caught in this snare…all of our fictions begin as transgressions, it could be argued (and indeed that is exactly what I am arguing), as all our religions began the same way, and all of our psychological theories too, our art forms and our philosophies, our sciences and our histories. None of it is “true”, in the way that the image beyond the kaleidoscope is “true”: because we never get to see the image beyond the kaleidoscope. The image beyond the kaleidoscope has, in a way, not existed yet.

And so it’s become necessary to invent it.

So where the heck is this “truth” character, anyway? That guy still owes me fifty bucks…!


Anyway let’s return to comics now, that most degenerate of all literatures, and most fractional of all genres. Most marginal, if you see what I mean. Because the more marginal the fiction, the more freely transgressive it’s permitted to be. Just so long as, you know, it doesn’t actually go outside the body of gross cultural permissions…

Just so long as it stays trash, in other words.

Trash culture. That’s an interesting thought, an interesting designation, don’t you think? “All that is not important”: and my God, the scope of that! It’s amazing. Because “important”, as we know, means all that is part of the hierarchy, all that composes the structure of the golden ladder to Heaven…all that is canonical and regulated, all that would suffer a complete collapse if not understood as order and focus…”importance”, the very spine of culture. Where intentions and interpretations are judged, and with an exceedingly fine edge too.

Down here in the muck, meanwhile, anything goes. No one cares. We all can be Menocchios, down here. It’s freedom, baby, yeah! And no fine edges to be found anyplace: therefore the reader simply overwhelms the text. Let alone the writer. “Open” readings, talk about your “open” readings! It’s almost too open. There’s no Capital-S SOCIETY at all down here, just so long as the Good Guys do, in fact, win at the end of the day. That’s really all “what’s important” requires of us, that the good guys win — because they don’t expect us to know any more. Because another word for trash, naturally, is juvenilia — so while established forms like the novel are replete with characters who supply their own moral (and a grim one it usually is), the world of the juvie is liberated from the necessity of accomodation with fate — in the world of the juvie, transgressions are not paid for, but forgiven, even as in the social world the transgressions of juveniles are not to be paid for as strictly as the transgressions of adults. Cheap expiation of sin is everywhere, and it doesn’t matter what numerical majority chooses to engage with trash fiction or trash entertainment, here: this is about the rules, and the rules say that the preoccupation of juvie fiction need not be with the price of morality, but only with the identification of it. In other words, morality is supplied from without, not within: so do the good guys win? Then fine, trash culture; so long as that rule holds true, you need not bother Higher Society with the details of your disgusting habit. Expiate away.

Therefore, think about it: for the most part we escape analysis, but for our own analysis. Even Mark Kingwell only turns his high-powered philosophical armamentarium on us in order to comment on the analytical method he’s using while he does it! Only we, who care for the more-than-half-accidental meanings that shore up our lake of crapola enough to try to sense where their currents run, are authorities down here.

And, outside of the good guys winning

No one’s watching.

Hence: freedom baby, yeah. What we lack in discrimination (note how many of our stories exalt simplistic “heart-following” — this is not a mature commentary on the human condition, nossir), we make up for in the virtues of strange community…polymorphous, democratic, nutso-inclusive, that’s us! Look over here: Kirk/Spock slashfic. And look over here! Harry Potter “shipping”. This is reading that goes beyond even the boundaries of the page. I remember once seeing an interview with Martin Amis in which he protested “…but the reader is an artist too“, and maybe it’s not quite what he meant — well, definitely it’s not what he meant — but we absolutely prove that, down here. Where we’re close to fiction’s transgressive roots. Where “fandom” is something people claim, even fight over the boundaries of…well, said boundaries not even having an existence independent of their fighting, of course, because that’s the imaginative exercise too…to self-identify through imagination (“simple” imagination, like “simple” heart-following), to develop camps and clades, to find a space in which to talk therapeutically, ritualize behaviours, fetishize attractors, develop affections and enthusiasms….

Where we can, perhaps, more clearly see the difference between the mysterious origin-matters of instinctual response, and the fallout of massive inter-associational attached meaning.

Can we?

This goes deep, Bloggers; maybe all the way to the bottom. It may in fact be a matter of “Our Fan-Fic: Ourselves”. Because is not all trash fiction of a piece with the lowliest fan-fic it inspires?

One day Stan says to Jack: “hey, what if the FF fought GOD?”

Or to put it another way, who would win in a fight, Jesus or Superman.

These are debased questions, degenerate questions. Questions that don’t follow the rules, questions that challenge the ability of the imagination to transgress. God and Superman are not commensurable characters; they exist in completely different conceptual milieux. They can’t be rationalized together. They can’t be. It isn’t allowed!

But imagination finds a way, and so we get Galactus.

More exactly: we get an expression of imagination which seeks to reconcile incommensurable ideas, which is (I put it to you) another word for imagination’s mythological impulse or affinity. That stupidly, illegitimately creative thing! That maker of loopholes that don’t exist! That junk-bond trader of the psyche!

That trickster!

What it says doesn’t make any sense…but it insists it’s making new sense.

Tolkien does that too, by the way: except in his case he insists he’s making old sense, not new, though it’s obviously pretty postmodern either way. Look: Glorfindel beats the Nazgul rider because he’s all elfy. But then what does that mean, for heaven’s sake?

Well, Tolkien fans understand very well what it means, though the hierarchy would be angry with the lack of logic evident in that understanding of theirs. New loopholes. Old meanings. Or to put it in terms understandable up on the Ladder: mythological thinking. And it seems quite out of left field, but this peculiar transformation of wish to sense to explanation that Glorfindel’s “elfy-ness” represents…arbitrary…postmodern…magical…is nevertheless not unjustified, just because it’s illegitimate. Indeed justification is the whole point of it, the whole point of the mythological imagination’s exercise, the whole point of what that illegitimacy is being used for. Justification is the whole point, the whole meaning, of the meeting of the ford in the first place! Psychologists will tell you that a meeting at a ford is a meeting at a ford, is a meeting at a ford, and all meetings at all fords are all the same, and they’re so right…and yet it was Jung himself (I use the elfyness for my own purpose here: “Jung himself“) who pointed out that the archetypes don’t vibrate all by themselves…but it’s the way they’re taken up into the psychology of the individual (hello, Bully!) that mobilizes and activates them. Now, you can believe in Jung or not, it doesn’t matter for this: because you can’t find me a psychologist anywhere on Earth these days who’ll deny the value of interpreting a dream to understand what it’s “telling” you. It simply doesn’t matter if they’re Freudian, Jungian, or whatever: it doesn’t even matter if they believe a dream has anything naturally to “tell” after all. But a dream’s a dream, and whether it has intrinsic meaning or not, its symbols “vitalize” when they are made sense of by the dreamer. But Jung would’ve added something to that formula of vitalization, crazy semi-mystic postmodernism-anticipator that he was:

“Of course, by being understood, the dream gets vitalized too.”

Justification, conversation, refreshment…ahhh, refreshment. For therapy as for mythology, it’s always the main thing. Because we never will get to see the image beyond the kaleidoscope, will we? And so we must be satisfied with what refreshment we can make up for ourselves. And this works a little bit like what George Clooney’s character was saying in “Three Kings”: “first you do the thing you’re afraid of…then you get the courage after.”

“But that’s not fair!”

“I know.”

And justification works the same way, in these meetings by the ford: justification comes first, not after. The leap of faith comes first!

Just as it does in the grammar of shapes and colours, or in the formation of notionally-onomatopoeic words (which kind of aren’t, really…I mean, “molybdenum”?)…it comes first.

Because imagination doesn’t see, but it makes.

Except, that is, when it’s seeing: here, look, I already gave you the dictum that some perceptions are conventional, and some are not…now what’s the bigger mystery, between the two of them? Gaze on some weird, unforced narrative orderliness for me, if you will: Becky Cloonan goes for Joss Whedon with a big sword, and the fucker is FROZEN; Dick Hyacinth is a VAMPIRE and Barry Kitson is a PALADIN (wow!), and “Bully = Minotaur; easy one”…ah, but Piaget might not have agreed, you see…

Waid vs. Simonson!

Aragones as a D&D monk!

Walt Kelly as Group Scientist!

Eisner vs. Eisner! Tom Brevoort’s telescoping arms!

So let’s get serious: how much of that is seeing, and how much is making? Careful! If you answer either way, you lose your own Buddha-nature…

And here’s a true story for you: when I used to play a lot of solitaire, I used to bliss out and imagine that some face cards liked each other/hated each other more than other face cards…

Which I freely admit is kind of weird…

Or, is it? Because don’t you know that all the face cards are supposed to reference august personages of semi-mythical times past? Hector, Charlemagne…one takes another, red on red, black on black…sixes and fourteens…


But then again, it’s all fan-fic. Read your Bulfinch’s: Hector’s sword? Became Roland’s. And who did Roland become?

Jesus, it’s just like solitaire…

Could Superman beat up the Nazgul? Would Lancelot take Hector, or Hector Batman? Grendel vs. Gilgamesh, bets anyone? How about Tom Swift vs. Jonny Quest vs. Joe Hardy vs. Sock Jones? Bets? Bets?

Like the man said, once: who makes the world?

Or: which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Jung tells us (yes, Jung again) that when a symbol is doubled or repeated (Batman vs. The Phantom vs. Tarzan vs. John Carter vs. Doc Savage– bets?), it’s because the archetypal information is still struggling for clear expression…which in the context of this discussion here we might take to mean: yes, those two magical complementarities, justification and refreshment. And they’re always trying to get out. But onto what?

Who will lay it out for them?

I dunno, could Oprah beat Howard?

Should it be Harry and Hermione, or maybe it should be Hermione and Bashir instead? Yeeeaaaaahhhh…

Dracula vs. Captain America?

If a dog and a monkey had a fight, who do you think would win?

What If…The Beatles Had Become The Fantastic Four?

I know that the ease of such pattern-matching seems trivial to some. Not to me. Because up on the ladder, above the muck, none of these questions have answers. Heck, they don’t even qualify as questions, up there. But down here, answers proliferate, sometimes align, sometimes diverge…we actually have more answers than questions, I sometimes think. And it’s all very mysterious. It’s all very exciting. It’s all very fun. But do we even know what we’re doing?

I think we’re rotting out the skin of the fruit, so that the seeds can get free.

But that’s just me.

And of course, your mileage may vary.

Goodnight, Bloggers! I had some bad news today, and so this has been therapy. And so it’s maybe not been as nice and neat as I would’ve made it otherwise, but you’ll forgive me, yes? And I have not put in any links, but if someone’s tremendously interested I’ll strive to put them in to order. Anyway I must take off for a few days. See you soon.


19 responses to “The Silver Reaches Of The Estuary

  1. Well, whaddaya know, I got it right. Mostly.

    Just finished “The Black Dossier”. My eyes are killing me. Somehow didn’t get the record — or is that only for the Absolute version?

    Oboy. My eyes are killing me.

    Small point of interest for anyone following the annotations: a few years ago I got a hitch across Bowen Island from this English couple. The man had been a meteorologist for the Air Force…

    But anyway. He was telling me (for some reason) about Ian Fleming, and how funny he thought the name “James Bond” was. You see (so he informed me) in England the name “Jimmy Bond” is equivalent to our “John Doe” — so giving your name as “Bond. James Bond” is a lot like giving your name as “You. Fuck You…and by the way I’m a Secret Agent.”

    Just thought you’d like to know.

    Dear God, my eyes

  2. Stan and Jack had a huge fight over whether or not the FF were bigger than God, but it all turned out to be a misunderstanding. Stan had actually said the FF were bigger than Rod, meaning Rod Stewart…at that point still a member of Steampacket with Long John Baldry, Julie Driscoll, and Brian Auger, and some three years away from his tenure with the Jeff Beck Group let alone the Faces.

    I can think of many possible explanations for why we have “favorite colors” but as it happens, one of them ties in with the story of Menocchio (this was a new one on me, but I already love it) as well as our concept of “music” as if they’re all manifestations of the same thing…namely, the hominid love of pattern recognition. So far as I can tell, the idea of a “favorite color” can only exist after we’ve been introduced to the intellectual concept of individual colors — blue and green and yellow as entities, see, not just “that visual attribute which resembles the sky, shading into the attribute which reminds us of grass” or however the unformed mind would verbalize it. Now, is it possible that we also don’t have any selection of a favorite color until after we’re taught the concept of “favorite colors”? Once I’ve heard that phrase for the first time, I can think “oh, of course, royal blue, it’s so obvious that’s always been my favorite color” but maybe that wasn’t the case at all. Maybe the need to order things and create a hierarchy in everything we observe is so strong that once I’ve been told having a favorite color is an option, I need to make it real so much that I convince myself it was something I thought all along.

  3. Poor Menocchio — it really is a fascinating book.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in my early childhood I actively, consciously decided to have a favourite colour…and then promptly forgot about that decision forever. I can picture a scenario in which I found out my younger brother had a favourite colour, so I picked one that wasn’t his

    Boy, can I ever see that happening.

    On the other hand, who knows? I think you’re on the track here, though: certainly there’s no favourite-colour gene, but there is gradual differentiation of the individual organism from everything else around it — even twins develop differences inevitably, sometimes just from their distinct physical placement in the womb. Of course then there’s the common behaviour of like organisms — bears forage, owls hunt mice, human beings form drum circles. Uh, well…Jung would undoubtedly call that last one common ideation rather than common behaviour, but you see my point, maybe.

    Countries seem to have average “favourite colours” too — the most common one being, you guessed it, blue. But it’s in the second-favourite colours that the countries really get weird: Canada’s first favourite is blue, but our second favourite is beige, if you can imagine that…

    So studies show.

    Also, how dare you come up with new Not Brand Ecch jokes at this late stage of the game.

  4. My favourite colour is, was always, red. I always found it weird that so many people picked blue, even as a child. I figured, red is the obvious choice for a favourite colour. It’s the default. It’s the first, most important colour. Blue and green and all the rest of them are just also-rans. Deep down, that’s still the way I think of them.

  5. Y’know, that “do the good guys win” bit is making me question whether or not I love trash fiction. Because I though it was the other way round.

  6. Cheers, Sean! Just left a comment on your spy-fi essay, so right back atcha…

    And, the good guys, yeah…well, let me just try to save that Big Conclusion of mine a bit, here. It does sound funny, doesn’t it? And yet I think it’s real, because it’s another thing for trash culture to gobble up, digest, and subvert. Consider (my favourite example) the Continental Op in Red Harvest — well, he does clean up the corrupt town, right? And as far as anybody who’s checking into whether the “good guys winning” message is being delivered, superficially it is. Or take The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (remember: Checkpoint Charlie for FD 11!), who are the Good Guys in that? Same as the bad guys, really, and yet they win, so technically the…the…the Terms Of Marginalization, if you will, have been fulfilled to the letter. Just, not the spirit.

    I don’t know: is it a good point, or isn’t it? Am I being too general in this “Good Guy” claim of mine, to be useful?

  7. Now reading Black Dossier criticism — Marc Singer, clear and incisive as ever.

    And yet…

    I think I have some thinking to do about the points he makes. Something’s just not…quite…

  8. A beautiful and touching piece of writing. I at one point foolishly tried to argue on a comic book bulletin board that copy right was unnecessary and corrupt, and had in no way led to better art or really even better artists rights. Especially in the big two comic book field. One of the responses that I got, and it’s on my list of the stupidest things I was ever told online, was that without copy rights then everything would be fan fiction and fan fiction sucks. Scary. That’s the statement of an individual who requires corporate sanction to enjoy something. How sad. Of course fan fiction does not suck, and by god I would hope that anyone working with a given franchise was a fan.

    I’ll spare you my blue babbles.

  9. What?! No, no…fork ’em over, Adam!

    And by the way, thanks for the compliment.

    A fact many people overlook is that this is not (at least, not necessarily) the best of all possible worlds when it comes to trademarks and copyrights…there are many other ways these concepts could have been applied in the law, and of course also many different ways they have been…there have been times, not even very long ago, when copyright and trademark were so devilishly hard to enforce, that no one so much as bothered to claim they really existed. And we shouldn’t just shrug about this: as I’ve mentioned around here someplace else, I do believe that what’s true in fact ought to be true in law as well, which means I think the definitions provided by copyright and trademark are worth having…that I scribbled these few lines on my own personal paper means that only I can decide if anyone else gets to see them, as a plain physical fact, and of course my name is also for identifying me rather than somebody else, which since it’s a fact well-covered by the rest of our body of law might as well be specifically extended into the world of art and publishing, where sometimes names make people rich, but other times make them laughing-stocks.

    This much, at least, seems eminently sensible to me. Even in a world without copyright as we know it — especially in a world without copyright as we know it! — the name still needs protection. But, that doesn’t mean it needs to be handcuffed and tied up in a straitjacket and sealed up in a concrete block and dumped into the river! Ideas will circulate, and that too should be as recognized in law as it is true in fact — ideas are meant to circulate, and there’s no point saying they’re not. But, here we are in a world where matters of intellectual property seem to be reaching a crisis-point — every use except the “authorized” one is called theft, but often the authorization is used to shackle even the author, and many things are miscalled “theft” that are probably really only light trespass, if even that. A million stories proliferate about what copyright is supposed to be “for”, and they’re all rapidly falling out of touch with what’s true in fact

    …And, oh no, I’m babbling. Also, very close to giving away a story idea.

    Bring on the blueness!

  10. Superman could take Jesus. But Jesus would forgive him afterwards.

    Arguably most of the big two’s products are now fan fiction, since almost all their writers are people who were comics fans first.

    Much of fan fiction does suck, but only because there’s a pyramid of writing skills. Fan fiction can be written by anyone and the bad writers won’t be able to progress from the bottom. But saying “you write fan fiction, fan fiction sucks, therefore you’re a bad writer” is illogical nonsense.

    IMO copyright should always exist because words are a product. If I paint a picture, that’s my picture. If I write words, why shouldn’t they be my words? Should the Big Two have the right to stop people writing fan fiction? I’d have to say that they do. Iron Man and Superman and the rest are clearly copyrighted material. However, they’d be fools to attempt to do it, because fan fiction doesn’t affect them in any way, it’s impossible to police and they’d damage their own business by looking like insane control freaks. Sometimes a law can be just but still impossible to apply.

    I’ve never heard of “Jimmy Bond” being used like “John Doe”, though. Our equivalent is “Joe Bloggs”.

    And I’m green myself.

  11. So I’m not quite the anarchist I used to be and the vagaries of copyright are no longer all that interesting to me. It could be argued that fiction itself sucks if we’re looking at the sheer bulk of it is an example. But of course fiction doesn’t suck, it’s a necessary function of the species. Plus there’s always the matter of personal taste and relationship with a given art work. Certainly the individual should own their own work, the words they compose, the image they draw, the music they play, etc. Ideas are a harder animal to cage. Of course we have a relatively short history where any kind of copyright protection existed at all, I think around the time of the printing press. So Art and Literature of quality certainly doesn’t need it to exist. And obviously lots of artists, writers and musicians have been ultimately screwed over because of it. Stan Lee had to sue Marvel to get his proper cut of the Spider-Man film pie. I suppose he deserves that. I wonder how much Steve Ditko got paid. Nothing is a safe guess. So in an ideal state I’d like it if anyone could create, publish and profit from anything they desired. A creator would have to get due credit and receive proper compensation, but would not be able to block anyone’s expression. In my ideal universe corporate entities would not be able to own an individual’s intellectual property. Copyright, unfortunately, was and is too frequently used in a scenario like “The Devil and Daniel Mouse”. I know, I’m naive, I don’t really care, they are just words.

    I’d love to visit one of the alternate Earths where copyright doesn’t exist to see what happened with the media. Could be better, hard to imagine it being worse. There is wonderful “fan-fiction” created of course on entities that have entered the public domain. “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” has led to (in my opinion) enjoyable works of art like the novels “Wicked” and “Son of a Witch” and the Sci-fi miniseries “Tin Man”. Even if these works aren’t your cup of tea I think most agree they have every right to exist. Wouldn’t it be great if anyone could tell any story about Superman that they wanted to (without having to mask it)? Another imaginary scenario involves Marvel and DC going out of business and no other publishers buying up the properties. Of course this would never happen, but if it did, what would happen to Spider-Man or the Green Lantern? Would they cease to exist? No, because they’ve become language and exist at a level in the public consciousness above the limits of comic book “continuity”. The little anarchist in the back of my head still argues we need a pop-culture revolution. Babble, babble, babble.

    So the color blue, I have, am and will be going on and on about it at my blog. This isn’t really the place perhaps for throat chakras and Krishna’s skin-tone, or allegories of alchemical silver transmutation. Someone mentioned the sky and that’s major, the blue shift phenomena of seeing something at a great distance, there’s something poetic about aspiring to the far blue. As a color found in nature blue is rare, and expensive, leading at least in part to the use of lapis pigments for the holiest or most royal figures, so there’s understandable psychology underlying that as well. I’m all about Chinese elements lately, as described in my friend’s article Basic Eastern Philosophy and I wonder how much such things affect “favorite color”. But again I’m slipping into topics more appropriate for my own festival of the outlandish. I like all colors really. If we weren’t such visual animals we’d maybe be having a different discussion. It is weird to categorize sensory experience. What’s your favorite proprioception? I like knowing where my hands are.

  12. Well, here’s a question. I learned in first-year psychology that there are not, as is commonly said, five senses. There are seven, and if I remember their names right they are sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, kinesthetic and vestibular. I think kinesthetic is knowing where your hands are even if you have your eyes closed, and vestibular is your sense of balance, of knowing which way ‘up’ is. So my question is, do those latter two involve themselves in synaesthesia at all? Like, I don’t know, does ‘up’ smell differently from ‘down’, or is there a different colour if your hand is in one place as opposed to another? Can one have a favourite direction?

  13. Lots to say…don’t know if I can separate it out into specific responses…it might be a bit more scattershot than usual, so apologies for that.

    And therefore to commence:

    Blue, rare in nature except in the heavens, right? Just like the “subterranean sun”…

    Back to Menocchio and fiction: as I mentioned, his transgression was to interpret written material according to the rules of the oral tradition…which, like fan-fic makes every word the possession of the hearer, not the speaker, because he’s only hearing it in order to speak it again…as the seed transmits itself through time by the device of the tree…yes, Jung again…

    The “right” of copyright: well, indeed it’s a special act of law and government that finally prises copyright away from the creator, for the good of “Ye Progresse” or whatever…except this is not so much an arbitrary gesture of law and the perceived social good as it’s that same recognition that what’s fact in life ought to be fact in law as well, and the power to police a right effectively sets the limits of where a right ends…and begins too, if you recall my assertion that copyright itself starts with fact: I wrote this just now, and because I hold the original piece of paper in my hand it belongs to me utterly — because no one else even knows it exists. Or in other words, sometimes rights and freedoms align, and sometimes rights and freedoms are at odds, and that’s how we know where we are. According to Mayhew, music men used to make their living in the streets of London by setting new words to well-known tunes, and selling the (Lockean, I might point out) product to musical theatres…fan song-fic, we might call it. What changed this? Possibly two things: one, a system of distribution that a) generated decent money for once and b) gave a single prosecutable address to the Chief Rip-Off Officer that could be found in any phone book (“I charge Mr. Edison of Menlo Park with getting rich off my words and music, without so much as asking my permission — and call for a GENERAL STRIKE…!”), and two, what amounted to an erosion of the distinction between individual “makers” and “copiers”, that allowed everybody to have a piece of a reasonably middle-class pie in exchange for their artistic labour…the precursor or enabler of the arts union/association, perhaps? Whatever, I suppose I’ll contend that once the flow of monies resulting from composition/authorship could be tracked and counted as (for example) the monies resulting from authorship of books and poems could be tracked and counted, the freedom that set the limits of the right was pushed back…and I’m saying I’m for it, don’t get me wrong…but I’m also saying it’s in the way that you use it, huh-huhhh, the way that you…

    Ed pointed that one out to me (although the Lockean bit is my own, and I think original…as well as true!). Anyway he’s verrry interesting, this Mayhew, and I assure you Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman know all about him…as to changing what someone’s already done, today we don’t keep the tune and add new words, but instead keep the words and add a new tune based on the original…it’s called the “arrangement”, and amazingly (wonderfully!) everybody gets paid for their contribution to the process…except Negativeland (sp.?), I guess…

    Please do me a personal favour and do not visit alternate universes of different copyright regulations for…I don’t know, a year? I have a story in the works, you see…and I promise appreciation for your forebearance…

    I believe Steve Ditko was offered money for the Spider-Man movies and replied with something along the lines of “you think you can buy me, but you can’t…I care nothing for your filthy lucre, be it a billion dollars or a trillion, A is A and I thought I told you never to call me here at John Galt’s place…” I admire Ditko’s Platonic integrity: he felt they ripped him off then, and doesn’t see why he should soothe their consciences (or, perhaps, their fears of future liability) by paying the slightest attention to their dumptrucks full of money that roll up at his door today, at all…and indeed, why should he? Is he not a man, with full human freedom? Holy shit, I admire that guy. He simply CANNOT BE BOUGHT, NOT FOR ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY, not even for promised rewards in the afterlife, and I hear tell he used to use original Spider-Man art for a cutting board and didn’t care. The man’s a giant. I think Ayn Rand was a fruitcake, but Ditko’s got his lights and he lives by them, and THAT IS IT That people call Alan Moore a hypocrite for refusing to participate in corporate bullshit-as-usual makes me just see red, because he’s only being Ditko-Lite — he feels they burned him, so he’s opting out of their whole scene and all the money they made on that thing that time, and so what’s there to bitch about? But don’t say he said he thought the script for V was terrific when he didn’t, don’t make up your own words and try to stuff them in his mouth…jeez, I feel quite strongly about this, it seems! Well, I do feel strongly about it…because this is the other side of freedoms and rights limiting each other, this is the one where the aggrieved party says “it’s nothing to me if you’ve tricked me into this-and-that about my rights, just as the Stoics I won’t have anyone restrict my freedom — not my right, my freedom — to walk away from a smoky house…”

    Oh, crap, that reminds me: I’m missing Rome. Hold on a second…

    Commercial. Forgive me, I’m a bit of a Roman history nut (and how did that ever happen, for God’s sake?), and we just got this in Canada…

    Oh well, I suppose I can rent it at the same time I rent Veronica Mars. It’s fan-fic, though, right? I wonder if there’s any Veronica Mars fan-fic…or maybe it takes a while for a beloved author’s stories to become fan-ficcable…?

    Back to my responses: can a just law ever fail of application? Christ, I sound like a Roman myself, don’t I…

    Superman could take Jesus, but Jesus would forgive him after…and there (short of just one intermediating step) we have the Galactus Trilogy, I love it…!

    Unfortunately I can’t verify the “Jimmy Bond” thing, but Moore’s script does seem to support it…Jimmy (always “Jimmy”!) is “a nobody”…(almost misspelled it as “novbody” there…Adam? Priene?) Anyway…hmm, future comment suggests itself…anyway, Rome seems to be well-constructed in dramatic terms, and adequately-constructed in historical ones…this is only Episode Two, but so far so good, and it’s intriguing. But does up smell differently from down? Good question…

    I should point out that I may have failed somewhat to equate the “accidental” or “seeing” parts of pattern-recognition with the recognition of what is natural…and I intended to, obviously, because of course the greatest mystery is whether or not the “natural” truly exists, in even the smallest particle of perception. Is Claire De Lune beautiful? Does “shark” sound sharp, after all? Is the conventional apprehension of musicality merely a statistical accident, and the unconventional just whatever happens to be necessarily excluded from the accidental norm? I don’t think so, and that’s what I was trying to get at…I know it makes me sound like a philosophical throwback, but I do think onomatopoeia is a wilder thicket than inter-association, and that if down at the bottom “normal” order is discarded, that’s one of the greater powers of the postmodern approach, to see that there’s pattern — “natural” pattern? — down there even in the disorder, that up above would be considered illegitimate because it isn’t appropriately laddered or scaffolded. But, maybe that’s the beer talking, who knows. Still, it’s hard to imagine that inter-associational factors alone would be sufficient to produce meaning or texture in utterances or in ideations, and a pop-culture revolution is exactly what’s been promised here for lo these many decades, so what’s it to ground itself in, if not some sort of sensory reality? And the ear does hear words, so…

    I believe RAB is referring to the Rutles, but I could be wrong and it could be Spinal Tap…been a long time since I’ve seen The Rutles. Anyway I don’t know what I intended by that Not Brand Ecch reference, I recall thinking I’d gone him one better at the time I wrote it, but now it just seems weird to me…

    Reading Paul DiFillipo (Filippo?) you would think the word was “proprioception” rather than “kinesthetic”, although it’s easy to suppose there’s more than one word for that out there…”vestibular” I hadn’t known about, but…odd it should be mentioned, I was just having a conversation with my mother about this the other day, and we were separating the idea of “balance” from the idea of “knowing your up-down orientation”. Similarly it seems to me that knowing where your hands are might be a different perception than knowing if they’re swinging around at the ends of your arms, or if your fingers are tightly clenched. Certainly we can feel a sense of acceleration, also, but what’s that? A feeling of pressure, that has a special grade in it for “pressure-that-mounts”? Not simple “touch”, anyway, and (I’d be tempted to argue) not “balance” either.

    I wonder how many more there are, or could be?



    The whole before-a-storm/after-a-storm postive-negative ion stuff they used to go on about back in the Seventies. Could you call that, I don’t know, “galvanic” or something? Just spitballing…

    I think it’s possible to have a favourite direction…well, at least, a synaesthetic investment in directions, and the placement of the hand thing…well, that reminds me of some OCB stuff, that I’ve always thought was related to the “instinct” thing you find gets active whenever you’re rolling dice for stakes, or wondering if now, no now, no NOW NOW is going to be the time when you get that feeling that yes, you’re going to hit that target with that thrown rock, if you just wait ’til the Cosmos aligns properly. Of course I don’t believe those NOW moments really exist, necessarily, but we do feel them, and I think we definitely believe that sometimes the feeling comes on us unbidden that “wherever I decide to throw this rock, THIS rock, it’s going to hit its target, whatever.” I think one could read (for example) The Iliad as being chock-full of those dynamic intuitions, and I hope we’re all familiar with the feeling of that…but what the feeling actually feels like, I’m not sure. For me, it isn’t a colour anyway, or a temperature or texture for that matter. But maybe to someone out there, it is…?

    Oh, run out of gas now. Have to go make a big travel decision, pardon me for a day or two, possibly…

  14. I don’t know much, but Jimmy Bond was the name given to James in the original CBS adaptation of Casino Royale. And Bond’s newphew, played by Woody Allen, was called Jimmy Bond in the EON version of Casino Royale.

    Also, taste isn’t a single sense – there are five sensory organs that contribute to it: tongue-taste, smell, weight-on-tongue, mouth-feel, and throat-temperature. So the beer tasting experts tell me, anyway.

  15. YES!

    Thank you, David…you know an old London publican of my acquaintance told me recently that the way to taste beer was not to sip it on the tongue, like wine, but to charge the whole mouth with it. Bloat the moth; swish slightly; swallow happily. He said that unlike wine, good beer was loaded with a hundred different sugars (maybe that was a technical term?), that were tasted on the cheeks, under the tongue, on the bloody uvula.

    I have done experiments. Can’t speak to his theory, but on the way to drink beer, he’s right. It can’t be (gack!) Budweiser though.

    The whole idea of “the five senses” suddenly strikes me as a) unregenerate Aristotelianism, and b) reductionism gone wrong. What about when I have achy hot-cold skin-crawling sensations when I have a fever? Is that “touch”? Or in true sixteenth-century fashion are those considered to be “defects” of senses? What about internal body-senses like hunger, or needing to take a shit? What’s the definition of a “sense” anyway?

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