24 August 2009

Broken treasures, beached

Sea squirts look delicious but what the eye doesn't smell, the nose doesn't see. They won't make allies in the kitchen if you dry a washed-up sea squirt there.

These tiny "bones" can rattle, but they never lived inside.
Bryozoans show theirs off, and never need to hide.

Free jewels on every urchin
And wonders in the walls and spines

21 August 2009

Dunnarts and flexibility

Every member of the dasyurid family has fascinating feet, with toes, claws and textured skin that suit the lifestyles of these meat- and insect-eating marsupials.

And those in the Sminthopsis genus, commonly called "dunnarts", like the one who owns this foot (a minute foot, the body from toe to base of tail being 70 mm long, tail length 70 mm, and total weight 14 gr) have the added attraction of being "notorious".

"Sminth, I say."

I'm tempted to say that this foot belongs to a white-footed dunnart as they live in the area, but I don't think it does, so I'll pass. There are many identifying particularities that distinguish one species from another—such as ears. "Big" is not a good description, by the way, though it is often used. Ear to head ratio would be better. This dunnart's ears are deeply notched and can be laid back against the head, but are nowhere near the size of some of the other dunnarts'. The tail is another identifier. How is the fur distributed, and is the skin scaled or not? What is the tail shape and length in proportion to the body? This one's tail looks remarkably like that of many dogs' who don't have their tails docked. Long, well-furred, and slim.

Dunnarts are known as primarily insectivores, but that too is rather sloppy. The main dish on offer here is black spiders, and from what we hear, the dish is relished. And spiders hate to be called insects.

The hind foot's big toe (called a hallux) is one of the identifying features that show whether a dasyurid is arboreal or terrestrial, or both. Some prefer running and some, hopping. And by hopping, they can rival popcorn.

Whether zoologists would say this foot and tail belong to a species that climbs or not, it does. It's our nearest neighbour (mammalian, that is), up in a narrow space below our roof—and is a night hunter of furiously fast action, and very heavy tread.

Luckily for them, even well-off dasyurids aren't tempted to shove their feet into shoes. This one's mobile big toe is as flexible and useful as the big toe of many working people throughout history.

19 August 2009

Australia in the American health debatcle

Watching the health care debate raging in America isn't a spectator sport, because America's choices affect us all. Although the Australian government negotiates best price with drug companies, the 2004 Free Trade Agreement had as a major push from the US, the end of that policy, seeking to make Australians pay what the drug companies want just as Americans do. Why? As a lobbyist said, for a “fairer, more transparent process for the pricing of medicines.”

Fairer, more transparent health care:
"The most controversial aspect of reform is the idea of government-run insurance, known as the "public plan" or "public option." According to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 47 percent of those surveyed oppose the public plan while 43 percent support it."
Future for reform uncertain, PBS NewsHour, Aug 18, 2009

Only last week, an American I know was telling me that he hopes he doesn't "go Communist like you are in Australia". This was after telling me that he can't afford health insurance, and needs to work though he's sick to save enough money to blah blah blah. His job: selling to the US military. He's usually in Washington lobbying.
"Yeah I'm Australian as well. Medicare is awesome and I also have private health insurance to get the extras like massages and stuff. I fail to understand why the US doesn't just implement a system like ours. Actually I understand exactly why, the US is run by corporations and full of douchebags that would sell their grandmas to get the chance to screw someone over for a couple of extra bucks."

The oddest part of this freakout in the US about socialism and communism is that they're both words that just mean, as Barack Obama summed up, Bogeyman!

How the public option can work
Americans are being frightened away from choice, but only choice will give the transparency and reduced costs that are so long overdue. And it is Australia that Americans should look at when they consider the public option, not the UK—because in Australia, we do have choice. A great deal of choice between private and public, and a combination of the two. Most Australians choose the government option, and then for some surgery, might choose private. We don't have doctors foisted upon us. We do get procedures done on time, and certainly don't typically have to wait like the Arizonian with breathing problems I know who was told he had to wait two weeks to see a doc.

Our medical costs are shared, and are not exorbitant. Our drug costs are reasonable, and aren't breaking the back of the country. We even have listed and unlisted drugs, meaning that you can buy some that are subsidized by our taxes, and some that are not. Age and income are a consideration, too, inclusively, not leaving older people out in the cold, as some of the fear-mongers are warning. The Australian system gives people dignity. It is a shared responsibility that is no more perfect than any human construction can be, but the basic model runs so well that no politician dares to talk of taking the public option away.

The biggest difference between Americans and Australians is in the character of the people. Australians are too complacent. We don't live in the fear and dread over the financial cost of getting sick or having an accident, or having a baby. Australians don't go bankrupt from having a baby. Public choice works. I know because I'm typical and like most Australians, use both but mostly use the basic public option, just like most other people. I have my choice of doctor (of course!), and have had one operation in a private hospital and recently spent a week in a public hospital, where I was given the best of care, especially by a nursing staff that was superior to that of the private hospital (though, typical with our terrible state government, a terrible feature of the public hospital was the recently privatised food service, which not only shipped the food from a location two hours away [stupid and dangerous - hospitals with no independent food supply and working kitchen are useless in disasters and disease outbreaks] ) but considered fresh fruit and vegetables two foods too far. They did have pears though, so hard that they could have come from a munitions store). So much for nutrition.

Of all the uses that Australians' taxes go to, our health system is probably the most approved of.
"Medicare has been popular with the general public since its inception, but is disliked by many in the medical profession (possibly because it caps their fees and thus income). Many among the conservative side of Australian politics would like to reduce its coverage, but have found it too popular to tamper with thus far."
Medicare (Australia) Health Private Doctors' Scheme System
What's the US military?
"The Republicans need to stop denigrating the troops. They keep saying that the government can't get anything right. How about the biggest government project of all -- the United States Armed Forces?"
Cenk Uygur, Is the US Military a Socialist Institution?, Huffington Post, August 6, 2009
Millions of Americans have socialist health care provided by the military – provided for those in uniform, the retired, families – and even, in the case of Walter Reed Hospital, for instance, officials elected to office? It would be interesting to see what the reaction would be if, instead of Veterans' hospitals and military health care, the command was: Go private!

Two red herrings smelling up the debate: co-ops and tort reform

Co-ops instead of the public-option choice - a sleight of choice

These are now being mooted as the solution, but co-ops have been around for many years. Group Health, the model in Seattle, has been around since 1947. So by all means, co-ops can add to the mix, but they are no substitute for a publicly-funded choice.

Tourists for health now, tort reform for dessert - later
Increasingly, health tourism is a factor in American health care, from buying drugs to getting operations. People who can't afford those options are stuck with a system that doesn't work. It is true that tort reform would help Americans to get health costs down.

"Yet the congressional leadership has slammed the door on solutions to the one driver of waste that is relatively easy to fix: the erratic, expensive and time-consuming jury-by-jury malpractice system. Pilot projects could test whether this system should be replaced with expert health courts, but leaders who say they want to cut costs will not even consider them.

What are they scared of? The answer is inescapable -- such expert courts might succeed and undercut the special interest of an influential lobby, the trial lawyers."
– Philip K. Howard, Health Reform's Taboo Topic,
Washington Post, July 31, 2009
It would be great if tort reform could be included in American health reforms now, but the proposers know that this is just a tactic to jam reform now. Republicans didn't when they had the majority and the opportunities.

That damaging suing mentality has now infected Australia too. It's a strain and we need tort reform too. But that's beside the point. We still have affordable health care in Australia, and a more equitable society (here's hoping that word doesn't offend).

But why listen to an Australian? Here's someone better: Erin O'Neill, Columbia Daily Tribune.
"The Aussies have fashioned themselves a very nice, if not perfect, health care system. It merges the benefits of a government-run universal insurance and care scheme with the flexibility and choice of private insurance rather successfully."
Follow Aussie example on health system, August 11, 2009

More opinions and resources:
  • What the US can learn from Aussie health care, by Alan Mascarenhas, Global Post - "Here’s a damning statistic: Australia spends 8.7 percent of its GDP on health care and covers everyone, irrespective of their employment status. The U.S., meanwhile, spends 16 percent of its GDP on health care — far more than any other industrialized country — yet 47 million of its citizens lack health insurance while millions more are underinsured."

Aisle 2 and the Astroidian Threat

Some readers (yet many more writers) have asked me to post dispatches from Asteroid * (must use the asterisk because their spelling doesn't convert to earthly fonts) where books, to the dominant species, are a matter of life. Eat books or die.

My interactions on Asteroid * were mostly with one species that I've dubbed 'astroidians' though I realize all forms there have an equal right to the title, just as all ants, aardvarks, e. coli, and sodium crystals here could argue in the Universal Court of Justice for the title 'earthling'. But as far as I know, only one species on Asteroid * writes and consumes fiction, so it must be — as we humans are — the dominant species, seizing the title by copyright. Perhaps in the future I'll pay for this indiscretion — in The Revenge Of the Slighted Species. That's the future though. Today one individual from the bookish species is more than enough trouble.

Why did I let him come? I couldn't stop a visit. (I'll probably also have cause to regret calling my guest 'him', but they aren't 'it', and I refuse to share aspects of his mind.)

Some background
To a hardcore addict like me, today's electronic fields satisfy cravings as much as a government brochure feeds the need to know. Research as escapism has been my addiction since the only way to do it was to dig, trap, bribe, pickle and dissect. So a couple of years ago, my addiction more frustrated than ever, I turned off the virtual track, and went where curiosity pointed.
I don't remember what the question was when I first visited Asteroid * but like all great research sinkholes, it doesn't matter. Take, for instance, the ambience that hits as soon as you land. No one wears earphones.

As so much of the travel experience is comparative, I was struck by other contrasts.

Here on Earth, the drought is so great that spiders hang out in the rain gauges. Thus, because we live only on what rain falls into our tanks, I was beset the week before my latest visit to Asteroid * by the most common earthly emotion (rage) when I visited my local town's post office. Their latest promotion? Showerproof mp3 covers. I wished I could stand under a shower ignoring the cascade, polluting the air with my voice above the beautiful sound of water falling. I wished I could flush the toilet every time I pee. And hey, don't they sell ambient music that's the sound of water falling?

But land on Asteroid * and those petty thoughts slough off like so many skin cells. The astroidians have not only never seen a raindrop. Asteroid * is so dry, it not only doesn't have H2O. It doesn't have H. It doesn't have O, and not a 2 has fallen in astroidian memory.

The greatest difference between Earth and Asteroid * is the role books (of supposed fiction) play in the lives of the dominant species. Unlike the worthy among us who strive to change matters, astroidians change matter. This in itself makes their fiction pretty wild by our standards, and I had a very hard time separating fiction in an astroidian story from fact.

Of course, astroidians are unearthly, but surprisingly, they are unfictionly too. For astroidians are — fatally for earthplot and goodbooks purposes — not only rage-free, but they love an adverb as they love to eat. My research shows that, just as everything we do and are is based on our composition as twists of DNA, this species on Asteroid * has not advanced beyond their biological composition — in their case, a more complex tangle: 7 Adverbial Elements.

Promises lead to problems
When I ended my first visit I promised them not to say anything to other earthlings. I have kept my promise, only saying this little something in an internet discussion:
"The *ians are voracious readers. With their one taste-organ orifice, they consume books with a sound that, if you're not born there, takes some getting used to — and they consume so many books so fast, that *ian authors must imbibe inspiration in some way inhumanly possible as they work without rest, coffee or praise — for on asteroid * there is an inverse of the Earth ratio of fiction writers to readers. With nothing else to eat on *, fiction production isn't an aspirational profession, just as cooking isn't for the majority of people who end up doing the cooking on Earth. The most popular theme in *ian sf/f today is visits to Earth and interactions with the dominants there, uh, here: iron atoms. The plots of *ish books are fast and nutritious; but unlike power drinks on our planet, *ish books are packed full of everything delicious . . . I love these books. But *ian sf/f has some guidelines that might be universal today. No cats, no puns, and certainly no fluffy kittens. They've had those guidelines since the Pure Fiction Act of 1.9908 eons ago — which means that Lewis Carroll is still banned on *."
Well, I thought that the amount I leaked about them was complimentary, so didn't think anything of it. But they did not approve. I was immediately summonsed to "please explain". They said they'd kept their privacy for a purpose, and why had I caused it to be breached?
"Just because we love you doesn't mean we want tourists," is the gist of the telling-off I got. So though they'd never admit it, to punish me in a polite lose-win sentence, they sent a tourist back with me — the houseguest who is ruining my day.

Anyway, what with my success on Asteroid * and the curiosity this sparked about what they labeled "Earthly" bookstuffs, I had no choice but to invite an astroidian home once it was suggested.

They all expected him to report rippingly, and furthermore, to write the first of many "Earthlies" — a new line pre-promoted as a "light moontime snack". The individual wasn't anyone I chose. Rather, his latest book was top-seller from one end of what they call The Tumble to another. The perk was his, by rights, and they are ever fair with their rights dispersions.

For lack of a human name, I'll transliterate his as Krl. The actual name means something like "Happy Twist".

The problem stemmed from one thing leading to another on my virgin trip there two (earth) years ago. Being a writer, within three minutes of me landing, I must have told someone (possibly a cleaner in their landing port) that I am a writer. And you know how I hate people who autobiograph, so I was just being polite, filling in briefly about my life, works, and philosophy when I stopped to take a breath. Opening my eyes, I saw that I was alone, this lowlife having left rudely — not giving me a good first impression at all from my first conversation.

But that astroidian, probably salivating as only an astroidian can, must have told another, who told another . . . and within two (earth) months, my collection and my first novel had been translated, and tidbits of them were being offered in every supermarket on the rock. And by last year (our time) my latest novel was something that even their greatest hypermart could not keep in stock, so snapped up it was for breakfasts, luncheons, sunspot 'o brunches, dinners, suppers, high teas, midmoon pickings, feasts and snacks.

It was all so fast and uncontrollable. Despite my objections, the books are stocked in Aisle 2 in every mart — so mass-consumption they might as well be white bread equivalent — or frozen battered hot dogs. Despite my telling them (gently and diplomatically, excuse the adverbs) that my fiction isn't for everyone, that it shouldn't just be bolted down in a gulp but savoured; that some of my creations are for, say, just after a heavy meal; some for those delicate times of escapism from work at work, some for romantic readings, and some as halvah, or poppyseed cake, or salsify in cream, or unstoppable incontinent love. In short: some for one mood, some another — but all, of a certain quality.

Despite my strenuous attempts to place my works in context, to show that, if the consumer takes the time to move the mouthparts slowly — "Taste before digesting!" I said, a slogan that the Department of Health turned into the banners: "Taste before digest" — despite my attempts to show that my works were not created to be moved en masse as mere commodities — books to read while thinking something else or nothing at all — they were still stocked in Aisle 2, one of them next to three-course meals of marshmallow equivalent.

And once my latest novel was released, books with my name as author were not only stacked in Aisle 2 (at astroidian eye-equivalent level) but also at the checkouts. I don't know who decides these things, but whoever does has disregarded my advice, which they seem to consider as irrelevant as any author's thoughts on covers or supermart design.

So you can see from this picture of Asteroid * that, as Burkina Faso is to Grand Rapids, there are differences but also universals.

Visitors from out of planet are not the easiest guests to host. Above all, there's always the insecurity about what food to make available, or serve.

Saki? Lem? Joyce? Cartland? King? Alice Munro? Boccaccio?

American English? Japanese? Spanish? Sanskit? Runes?

Krl has partaken everything on offer (including the Testaments, Atlas Shrugged and "Pig Hooey") in typical astrodian fashion, in gulps — as otherwise silent while eating as a serious glutton — a sign I should have read and brooded over.

The problem is that in no time, this guest thinks he has the measure of our species. Not only that. After dinner the other night, he said he was going to write a bestseller — "One that will sell in supermarkets here."

I smiled and offered him an after-dinner Gaiman.

Krl wrote the novel yesterday (yes, it irks me) AND it's evident that he has used time when I am peeing or sleeping to analyse best sellers so scientifically (his species is so advanced, their laziness is necessary to their metabolism) that the novel is set in New York, just like most new authors' are from any outpost on our planet.

Now Krl expects me to find an agent tomorrow, and for that agent to do as Krl's research shows agents do: getting Krl's first novel to No.1 on the NY Times bestseller list next week.

Add certain problems with the manuscript, and the day has not been good. Especially not, since after our little talk where I explained some problems, I discovered some more Elements in Krl's character — Alien Adverbs far more dangerous than the ones I had already found.

Not exactly a choice Designer Species
Nobody's perfect, so I don't want to list his character faults in public. Let's instead, let's cut to his basic plot flaw. So we humans (he titled the novel "Lost Without You") do cuddle up with chairs 98% of our waking hours and some of our sleeping hours, rush from a chair at work to a chair on the way home, to a chair at home — rush from chair to chair like all species unable to be loners — and have 8.9 chairs per person and use dogs for tasks and leave them outdoors, and dump them when we are tired of them — even the most popular varieties: plush and battery-driven. That doesn't make chairs companion animals.

People don't walk chairs on the beach, I told him.

He said yes, they do, and he showed me a picture of a crowded beach promontory. He was half right.

"The chair isn't walking the person," I said. "The person is rolling the chair."

He just glimmered at me — very disconcerting, but truth is on my side (our side!).

"People don't walk chairs," I said.

Smugly, he did nothing discernible, but at once the computer leapt into seekmode with a whir as loud a the pc call of trojans found! Its screen swirled vertigo green, and then black and white, filled with a post-WWI hospital garden party.

"You write, here," I pointed, 'He pulled on the leash'. "We don't walk chairs on leashes."
"Now you're looking for fine points to criticize."

As gently as I could, I reiterated to Krl that: okay, the chair-as-a-companion theme would seem to him as a momentary visitor, to be reality — in which case his reality would definitely be not only acceptable as a brilliant and sensitive key theme in this novel. Definitely Aisle 2 stuff. But there are other problems. Perhaps he doesn't know enough to taste the flavour of Manhattan, of the sea spray on a Long Island beach. Of the sound of rain, the feel of it hitting a hungry man caught out walking his cha—I never said "This doesn't work for me." I never said that the plot lacks tension, no matter how taut the leash is pulled.

When I was finished gently pointing problems out, my unearthly guest's physical aspect proved that there are some expressions that are universal, though he hadn't bothered to change his matter today from looking like a dust mite's lunch.

I held so much in. I concluded by saying only "There's just a few little things," — and bashing out two lists for him with pictures that I pasted in from the web while he glare-equivalented at my back.
  • Living Things (a Tree, Donkey, Person, Dog, Carrot, Sloth . . . )
  • Dead Things (a Church, Gun, Hamburger, Cosh, Chair . . .)
I laid the lists on the table, side by side for his convenience. "I've got to go pick up something for dinner," I said. "Want some Bradbury?" I had to get away. The temptation to exterminate Earth's first known guest from Asteroid * was so tempting it was painful. But I couldn't as a host, let alone a reader of another's writer's work.
While I drove, I thought of my findings — the 7 Adverbial Elements of Astroidians:
  • Hungrily
  • Gratefully
  • Lazily
  • Generously
  • Honestly
  • Confusedly
  • Feyly (Research should always be above value-judgment)
Hungrily my guest consumes, and waits for more. But he doesn't seem to care what he consumes, as he hasn't asked for anything by me. Gratefully? This describes his consumption, as it does a cat's. Lazily. He must be if he thinks he can just plug into me without going through the pain of learning and rejections. Generously. Well, yes, he gives generously. But a ten-year's supply of Ioky's (can't translate, but the current most popular cocktail-nibbles author on Asteroid *) works doesn't quite work for me. And I don't think it would for you, or any of our species. Honestly? No, it doesn't, and I don't know Krl well enough to know if he wants me to be that honest. But I forgot. Honestly as it applies to him. Yes, he honestly thinks his works are nutritious and delicious here. And worst of all, he's contemplating settling in. Is he confusedly? What do you think!

As I drove, I cried a bit and almost crashed, I got (to) so angry(ly) thinking about this pest. When I entered the bookstore I was so worked up, I was beside myself with nouns hunting adverbs, and ready to rope his little ly and bury it where the moon won't shine, if I only had the nerve.

So rage is alien to his voracious little species. That's no character reference when they can do so much to create rage. I was so filled with our essential element in the almost empty bookstore, that as my eyes roamed shelves groaning with delicious fiction, I swerved and grabbed. My heart beat churlishly as I made my purchase, but I didn't care. I drove home singing, my cloth bag bearing an after-dinner-mint-slim collection of poems by Sylvia Plath.

While I was gone, Krl had used my computer. They were humming as I tripped upstairs.
He was perched on my chair, waiting. There was no "How was your trip?" No welcome smile-equivalent.

"You say," he accused, "that there's the living and the dead. You don't want me to know about the living dead."

"That's fiction," I pointed out.

"I haven't been dining on dictionaries," he replied, with an accent.

Dining on dictionaries? Only two hours before, my guest who doesn't breathe had not been able to get a job on even the most fm radio, as his kind doesn't have vocal chords. Instead, we had conversed in the international language of book lovers. Now, though he didn't have a hair to brilliantine, he sounded like the lead sneerer in a Noël Coward play. Interplanetary metabolisms!

"You don't want my book to sell here," he said.


I'm happy to say that he doesn't know what bollocks means, and is at this moment, preoccupied with his confusion. Maybe a petty victory is better than none.

The thing is, he's right. I don't want his book sold here. His kind have their good points, but still, they are what they are — an alien threat.

I mean, confidentially between me and you — it's a trip for my works to be sold as they are over there on Asteroid * and to know they consume my works in such huge numbers — with no choking — but it's rather ungratifying that no one chews. One gulp and a whole oeuvre's gone, with less after-effect expected than we allot to an oyster. Especially distressing since I need time to create these works. I don't write anywhere near the speed of an astroidian. No earthling ever has, even in the ambrosial Days of Pulp.

So yes it's nice to sell on Asteroid *, but there's no place like Earth. And between him and me, yes, he's a guest, but bugger him. He can get in the queue. Earthlings first.

If you are a writer, you agree, don't you? And if so, please spread this word in our publishing community:
If you get a manuscript titled "Lost Without You" please do not publish, no matter how out-of-this-world accompanying spread sheets show projected levels of consumption for this book. Even if the plot it has revolves around the sensitive relationship of a lonely worker and a three-legged chair with no arms but a levitating swivel, please reject.
for if this first Earthling novel by Krl succeeds here, invasion is inevitable.

16 August 2009

Dog as model

All her life, Rosie had a certain "Girl with a Pearl Earring" look that she'd throw back, particularly when she waited patiently while humans dithered. Unfortunately I'm no Vermeer, or (if wishes could come true) Norman Lindsay. If only Rosie had met Norman!

But back to character. Though Rosie had extraordinary patience, there's a difference between patience and anticipation. She anticipated with stilled quivering joy, even when she worked as waitress, carrying menus from cook to diner and back. She always enjoyed being a messenger, but any work and job responsibility was something she lived for.

Carrying a basket of eggs was almost as pleasurable for her as pointing out where the hens had hidden more eggs in the orchard.

08 August 2009

The living dead

This forgotten Chinese cabbage, as amputated as Monty Python's Black Knight on the Bridge of Death, gives new meaning to "the vegetative state".

It tasted feisty.

A drought so great

There's a crying need for two weather reports—one for the city and another for everywhere else. It's painful to see the sadness on the city reporters' faces when they talk about a sky that isn't blue as a plastic toy. They must be Prius people.

(How many forests does it take to run one of those multi-full-page Prius ads, "You're the kind of person who will recycle this paper" ? I can't estimate but I did meet a Prius person once, who was trying to kick the habit of driving everywhere all the time, till the Prius purchase. The other car in the family? A red slash that goes from 0 to 2000 in a z' of a microsec, consumes as much as a public servant on a fact-finding trip abroad, and is as joyously obnoxious as a jet engine being played with on the other side of your bedroom wall. The Prius people mantra: "Plug in. Tune out." They certainly manage to turn off.)

But back to the more narrow topic of, not myopia, tunnel vision, or hot air, but air unburdened by moisture.

Out here, we're so parched that I was going to take a picture of the Big Dry for you, but when I took my camera out, I found that the drought had dried up my inspiration.

07 August 2009

The soaring craft and artistry of bird-built baskets

Every year, winds bring to earth the craft of many birds, along with eggs and chicks.

Many birds line their nests with softer stuff, parrots such as rainbow lorikeets plucking their own fluff to make multicoloured lining. This fur-lined nest uses individual strands of possum fur (each hair so fine that a coarse-skinned human hand can't feel it) as if they were yarn or wire, positioning each and securing it so that they each pointed inwards like a sea urchin in reverse—and the artist/craftscreature also wove in spiders' silk and egg cases, bark, moss and lichen.

Comics and lip gloss

"In its decision to market directly to female readers, Marvel, like Wizard, seems to have adopted the philosophy that the population is divided into two groups: people, and women. In a few months, when they realize that girls are not rushing to buy Spider-Man lip gloss and Incredible Hulk tampons, expect Marvel to poutily insist that this is proof that women are not interested in comics."
from a brilliant though not glossy column, Lip Service, by Rachel Edidin