Thursday, 01 March 2007

Cerebus and Modernist Freedom, Part II: Snow-Machines, Archaeology, and the Damage Done (This is the second in an ongoing series. Part one can be found here.) If I'm to discuss Jaka's Story, I should at least be polite enough to introduce to you to Jaka , pictured here in a rare happy moment. Her life has not been an easy one: she was born into the royal family of Palnu, but a life of royalty she did not lead. From the moment she awoke, her nurse hounded her every movement—and perhaps this was for the better. In the few hours when the nurse wasn't roughly scrubbing this or manhandling that, the six-year-old Jaka was molested by an unknown member of the royal family or the palace staff. (These nightly molestations are alluded to on a single page, but it is a significant page, and one I will return to later.) The reader is first introduced to Jaka as a young woman dancing in a nightclub. According to Sim in his editorial introduction to Cerebus 114—the "Prologue" to Jaka's Story—she is based upon the mistress he had when he first married his wife, Deni: "I was naive and ridiculous and the poorest imaginable husband material (still am) but my subconscious was at least able to dredge up what I considered a particularly interesting character out of a singularly unstable period of my life." Then again, in response to a letter in Cerebus 268, Jaka is "a spoiled, myopic, insensitive, self-absorbed and self-important harlot princess (quite apart from her position in the heirarchy of the city-state of Palnu)." I mention this not to point to Sim as a hypocrite, but as a way to track the development of his thought: Jaka begins as a complex character with a fraught and troubled past, but in the end becomes a symptom of feminist effrontery. In the strict allegory into which Cerebus will eventually descend, Jaka will come to mean something. She ceases to be a character with motivations the minute she becomes this meaning-laden symbol in possession of an established allegorical function. To belabor this point, indulge me in a brief discussion of another allegory, Dante's Commedia. Every character in the Commedia symbolizes and personalizes the sin. In the Inferno (Canto V), the soul of Francesca da Rimini is blown about by the winds, the perfect contrapasso for a woman whose lust led to her ruin. Dante uses a familiar figure from (then) recent Italian history in order to prevent his readers from falling into a purely allegorical mode of the sort found in Le Roman de la Rose, in which a Lover is thwarted by Jealousy. Sim's revisionary account of Jaka shovels abstract generalities on top the rich character he had created, much like a snow-machine transforming the rugged terrain of an archaeological dig into a pristine white field. Why would someone take a snow-machine to a dig? Because life is easier when less complicated. Because history can be rewritten with a little effort and lot of alcohol. Those are fine, if ultimately inadequate, answers....
"Show Me Your Work," Filthy-Mouthed Liberals Politely Demand So that thing about filthy-mouthed liberals? Something seemed—I don't know—off about those numbers. Quick exercise: I'm from the South. I know what patriotic Americans sound like after church on Sundays when, for example, someone scores on 'dem Saints. I also know many people in the service. I've driven hours into the desert to hang out with them as they passed through Fort Irwin. And you know what? Those guys who used "fucking" as an adverb in high school? They're still fucking awesome. So I re-ran Patrick Ishmael's experiment using his instructions: How did I get this result? I searched Google using the following format and recorded the page results that were returned: "search term 1" OR "search term 2" OR "search term 3"... Nine search terms total—the seven profanities as single words, and two of those as their own two-word variations. I then added the individual site results together and compared them. Some of his results are, shall we say, a little misleading. Just so you don't think I'm inventing this, I'm going to link to the very searches he claimed to do. Here's his entry for Daily Kos: Daily Kos 146,000 I'm not sure where that number came from, because when you do the search he claimed he had, these are the results: Daily Kos 9,960 Don't believe me? Click on the link. Where did those other 136,000 or so instances come from? I'm not sure. But I think I've figured out why the Huffington Post came across so salty. His number's on top; mine, complete with link to his search, on the bottom: Huffington Post 109,000 Huffington Post 10,600 Throw in a little Google invariability, and what you have here is a simple transcription error. Wonkette, on the other hand: Wonkette 78,200 Wonkette 3,960 The only major error of this sort I found on his list of conservative sites was Ace of Spades, who ain't quite as profane as Ishmael estimated: Ace of Spades 9,730 Ace of Spades 7,480 Now, I don't necessarily believe my numbers are correct. But I do know that his numbers should be similar (considering the inevitable Google waggle) to mine, since I used his methodology. But some of them aren't even close. I wonder why that is? [Those interested in witnessing counter-counter-methodology slams are encouraged to check the comments. Also, I'm more than willing to be wrong about this, as Ishmael's numbers jibe with my intuitive sense on the matter.]

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