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Wednesday, December 1 2004

Five Years of PopMatters: Comics

While sometimes we may touch on the inner workings of the industry in order to emphasize a point or analyze how it affects a particular work, this isn't our primary concern. Instead, we focus on evaluating the work in a larger context, and trying to help develop the small but growing realm of intelligent comics commentary.

Five Years of PopMatters: Columns

PopMatters cultivates smart writers/smart thinkers from the world-at-large. Our staff ranges from the multiple-degreed and/or world-traveled, to young writers of high caliber, to "seasoned" folks who punch the 9-5 clock, regardless of what type of degree, if any, they may hold.

Wednesday, November 24 2004

The Real Nigger Show

Maybe Sambo did die, but there's been a resurrection -- one worthy of a billion dollar industry -- and the opening segment of last week's Monday Night Football broadcast, the Vibe Awards ceremony that was broadcast the following night and the closing minutes ESPN's Friday night NBA game between the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers were proof that Sambo and the minstrel stage that so powerfully nurtured his existence are still alive and well and whetting the appetites of those desiring the 'real nigger show'.

Monday, November 1 2004

The Place Where Winners Live

'The House that Ruth Built' has been through some changes, over the years. Like a grand ballroom in a mansion where the wealthy once came to dance, Yankee Stadium is now less imposing, more friendly, and open to the general public for viewing, providing one has a ticket.

Masses in Transit

Sometimes, the best way to really see a city clearly is through a bus window, smudged by the sticky hands of the toddler in his mother's arms, or through the crowd of people waiting with you on a non-descript platform at the light rail station. If you really want to know what Denver is like, leave the car behind, walk to a bus or train stop, make sure you've got change for the fare, then hop on board.

Three Miles of Bad Road

No matter that the coast is a mosquito-infested swampland and the region a well-worn corridor for house-destroying hurricanes, newly-created communities along this strip of eastern North Carolina attract wealthy retirees from the northern states. They come with their large sailboats, Lincoln Towncars, and an insatiable desire for golf. But when they emerge from their gated communities they rub elbows, so to speak, with the people who have lived here for generations; many accustomed to working 12 hours a day for minimum wage and no benefits.

My Tohoku Epoch, This Japanese Life

Tohoku was forged into a regional empire by an audacious, 17-year-old warrior king: the perfect stage for a foreigner arriving with little more than vigor and passion, and the unrealistic hopes and uncertain certainties of youth. Yet characteristic of Japan, the people of Tohoku tend toward modesty and shun pretension; they tend to keep their place in the constellation of power and cultural relations well rehearsed throughout the archipelago. Or do they? No longer guaranteed a career, a way of life long known to their elders, Tohoku's youth show a robust affinity for individuality; for free-lancing in sport, and, at times, for pursuing a private, bohemian dream.

Suburban Life, A Pretty Wife, I Think I’ve Got It Made

In 'The Wizard of Oz', a tornado acquaints the characters. In South Norfolk, a hurricane provides the introduction for the new folks in the neighborhood. Much like the girl in Oz's Emerald City, the fellow in South Norfolk, with his emerald-green, mysteriously self-mowing lawn, learns that there really is no place like home.

Monday, October 25 2004

Breakfast of Champions

Washington, DC ain't for the faint-hearted. This is the school of hard knocks, baby. In DC, they eat politicians, lawyers, and other movers-and-shakers for breakfast. New York has nothing over DC.

Now That I’m Home I Never Stay Home

Austinites live with a sound track to their lives: music for almost every occasion is heard in virtually every location. It is a city full of tastemakers who care little for style, but display it in spades.

The City in the Mountain

The imposing high-rises of Gulf Canada Square, Energy Plaza, and Petro-Canada, among others, tower over the tiny commuters who come downtown to earn their wage at these brawny monuments to Canada's oil industry. But take another look: the casually dressed population is hardly bullied by all this might. No, the only thing that ruffles this hardy bunch is the wind blowing down from the mountains.

Living Hip and Broke in the City of Nations

Toronto's young people, a gumbo of races and cultures, live crowded into small apartments with roommates, or at home with their parents, because once university bliss ends, they can't find a decent job. They have the privilege of living in one of the richest countries in the world, but they must figure out if they should splurge on a streetcar ride home or leave the $2.25 as the tip for the soup.

When the Roadwork Slows

After the two-week festivities of the Kentucky Derby are over -- the potholes are allowed to grow deeper, the weeds along the roads are left to grow -- Louisville settles into a comfortable balance of country and urban, conventional and cutting-edge.

Monday, October 18 2004

Where Phantoms Stroll

The Goulburn Valley's trees are dying because of the drought: the worst since 1927. Kyabrum is not a fun place to be right now, but it never really was, even when the farmers were thriving. One rare, rainy night, a feeling of hope creeps in from the shadows; but the illusion quickly flees like the ghost that it is.

A Place Full of Punks

Bay area punks hold a mock funeral for the recently expired US President, Ronald Reagan. Recalling Reagan's legacy -- El Salvadoran death squads, homelessness, union-busting, and silence in the face of the devastating AIDS epidemic -- Nguyen revists the place of her Reagan-inspired punk youth to see what has changed, and what remains the same.

The Last Housing Edition on the Left

There is the environment that we find ourselves in, and that which we create. After two millennia or so of having to be nice to your neighbors because they were the only people you saw on a regular basis, we've reached a point where a neighborhood, a community, doesn't necessarily have to be simply where you are. Instead, it can be what you make it, and with whom you wish to include.

Leaving Home and Wide Awake

There are things about going out to the movies that home video will never capture: the hugeness of even the dinkiest movie screens; sharing space with strangers in even the near-emptiest of theaters (although New York theaters are rarely actually empty); and the immediacy of seeing a movie during its (ever-briefer) big screen life. It's all worth it, even if it takes 45 minutes to get to a movie theater from the quiet borough of Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

The Last of the Perugians

In the wee hours of the morning, in a plaza set in humble Perugia, a lovely little slice of Italy, a drunken 20-something party boy kicks at the empty beer bottles at his feet and curses into his mobile in crude, raw dialect. Modern man, as embodied in this raging fashion case, hardly compares to the historial and architectural grandeur that surrounds him.

Monday, October 11 2004

National Fantasies

In the US Capitol, multiple 'realities' and 'fantasies' coexist, creating a schizophrenic existence. It is a place of 'real world' politics as depicted by the mass media. We think we 'know' this city from so many movies and TV programs we've seen. It is our national site for pilgrimage, shared with people from other countries who bring their own historical understanding to this monument. And, it is home to a disenfranchised population with minimal representation in its own country, as if the people who live here are virtually non-existent.

Place as Burden: Please Do Not Vacation in Charleston, South Carolina

In contemporary South Carolina, people seem willing and eager to evoke, rather than to exorcize, the ghosts of the past. Yet if you mention its uglier aspects, you will be told, perhaps by someone dressed in a hoop-skirt and getting ready to lead a tour of a 'two hundred yar old plantation', to 'stop living in the past'.

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