book review: the five nations of new york (dmz vol. 12)

So DMZ is done. The Five Nations of New York closes out the story of Matty Roth and the civil war that defined his life. It’s interesting when a story like this ends, because it’s the story of how Matty stopped being an entitled journalism punk who picked up a gun and got into politics, but it’s a story of how he tells a story, and how he fucks up telling the story.

By the end of this book he’s taking the blame for things he didn’t legally need to, and [SPOILER ALERT] goes to jail for life. Which isn’t an altogether unhappy ending. I mean, I can see how it’s not. Because what is Matty going to do now that the war is over? The character we got to know through these 12 volumes can’t really exist outside the DMZ, and parlay his six years into punditry and all the rest. Anything he’d become would be so different from who we know. Prison gets to seal Matty Roth in lucite, having learned something about life, having his only opinion that matters, and then he’s gone from the stage. This isn’t the model for a life, but it’s a good way to seal off a story.

As far as long-form comics go, DMZ ranks right up there with Transmetropolitan for me, but then I would love science fiction journalism comics, wouldn’t I?.

book review: the influencing machine

Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld made The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media which is a comic about how the media works. It talks about bias and how objectivity doesn’t really work, but also about the history of democracy and media consolidation. The book is drawn really well, clear and effective in conveying its information. Comics like this are so good at doing introductions to complicated topics.

I started the book really enthused about it, but as it went on I realized it was never going to get beyond the introductory stuff. It was still good, but since the media is something I read about a lot in non-book form I was a little underwhelmed by the content. But as an introduction, it was pretty good.

book review: astronauts in trouble – live from the moon

Astronauts in Trouble: Live From the Moon could have been exactly the kind of thing I’d love. It’s a comic about journalism and space colonization (and had an introduction by Warren Ellis). But something about it never really clicked for me.

I had issues with telling the similar looking characters apart. The plot itself had some gaps that left me confused. The journalists fending off nukes with a jury-rigged camera wasn’t quite as wacky as it sounds so it was just kind of odd. The trusted onscreen personality talks about himself as growing up in the shadow of Generation X, though he was born in 1977, which seems all sorts of weird to me (though it was written in 1999, which might explain that a bit).

I did like how orbital dynamics were addressed when they launched prematurely though. I just think the book needed to open up the throttle a bit more and decide if it was being more of an adventure or a serious speculation. It kind of waffled around without melding the two.

book review: m.i.a. (dmz vol. 9)

So it turns out the reason I was a little underwhelmed by Collective Punishment was because I’d somehow skipped the DMZ book preceding it, M.I.A.

This is the volume where Matty Roth deals with the aftermath of getting involved in politics and where he makes the decision to get back to what he originally went into NYC to do: journalism. I’m not feeling bad for all of his poor choices any more, because he’s trying to set things right. When he talked about that kind of stuff in Collective Punishment I didn’t have the background of this new decision and it all felt weak. Of course, the people he’s dealing with in that book didn’t get to see all the stuff that happened in this one either, so maybe I had a more authentic DMZ-inhabitant experience when I read it with this hole in my knowledge.

Before that redemption-filled part of the story, there are a great bunch of supershort vignettes with different artists.

book review: collective punishment (dmz vol 10)

Collective Punishment is Volume 10 in Brian Wood’s sf series about a near-future civil war in New York City. This volume is a collection of shorter bits mostly about some secondary characters as the city gets the shit bombed out of it. It’s following the aftermath of what Matty Roth hath wrought in his time in the DMZ. I love this series, but so much of my love is based on a lot of identification with Matty Roth, it’s hard reading these books after he’s fucked up badly, especially since I don’t know how it ends yet. I care about this version of New York and the people in it, and it sucks what’s happened in the story. You know, the way war does.

filled with flots and jets i am today

One of the things I love about an aggregated informational world is the idea that if you’ve got enough information flowing past you things will wash up on shore. In the Wesch video there’s a bit about how a person finds significance based on our relationships/contrast with other people. That flow of what you and other people care about is important for significance I guess. You see how people who make stuff you care about care about certain things and you learn what you feel about things.

Journalism is about working yourself up into a lather over something you previously felt nothing about. It is diametrically opposed to what you do as a novelist, which is to very slowly discover what you feel about things. – Kazuo Ishiguro

I feel like aggregating information aids in both of these acts. You need that flow to see what other people are getting into a lather about and sometimes you can get into that lather too. There’s something to be said for having a pile of information you’re barely reading until you see people talking about the same thing so many times and it just bubbles up seemingly everywhere. I love that, especially when news is breaking.

And then there are the people who do the librarian/journalist type aggregation themsleves like @acarvin the NPR journalist who’s become the go to retweeter for the revolutions in the Middle East. He’s being the human in the middle putting an eye on things (and sometimes he, like others, gets fooled).

I can see how these software bits and the fancy learning environments are good for bringing information together but man oh man do I ever like the idea of the infopro (ie the person not the tool) as aggregator supreme. In a much more modest way I’ve been trying to play that kind of role in this class, going through the twitterstream and putting the conversations into a more followable format on Storify. This is not the most efficient means of aggregation, I realize. That Wesch video is talking about automatically pulling in everything tagged anthropology on Flickr, but I’m sure a lot of those pictures are absolute shit. If we’re filters we’re filters sifting for treasure. And it’s not easy.

The other day Jessamyn West posted a commencement address I really enjoyed, which included this:

Some of what I do is go places that “my people” don’t go to, represent us, and then come back and tell my folks what I found there, whether it’s being a techie at a librarian conference, a librarian at the tech conference or a rural librarian at the big city meeting. The world needs people who stay and people who roam, cross-pollinate, bumblebee style.

Sometimes I was surprised that I’d be one of very few people in my communities speaking out cogently and clearly for my ideas, against filtering, against digital rights management, for copyright reform and open access, that sort of thing.

Dorothy Day who founded the Catholic Worker movement sometimes called this isolation of idealism the “long loneliness” and said it could only be solved by the love that comes with community. I feel that by sharing your ideas and ideals with others, you’re not as lonely.

I don’t know, this idea of streams of information merging with each other and being separated out is important and kind of beautiful. I don’t know about the wisdom of crowds but I do love cross-pollination and that’s something that works if you’re aggregating across different ideas.