This past week has been dominated by a pair of tempests-in-teapots: a lot of talk about Talk and a lot of mouthing off about the creator of Maus. It's all basically a bunch of dogs running around sniffing each other's asses, but what can I say? I'm a dog.

Story one is Talk, the new magazine launched a weekend ago with a star-studded party at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. Slate, the online magazine nominally published from the Microsoft campus in Redmond, had at least eight separate items on the new magazine. This is odd, since, as anyone who's tried to find a copy of it in Seattle knows by now, Talk is really hard to find. I spent the early part of this week hounding Bulldog News and Steve's Broadway News to find out when they were getting their copies; they didn't know. The Stranger's Kathleen Wilson finally happened across some copies at Steve's, but their small allotment was sold out shortly thereafter. The story ended happily for me when I found my own copy at the super-QFC on Broadway and Pike. The magazine turns out to be an okay, fun, slightly trashy mix of Life, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, The Independent's Sunday magazine, Paris Match, Hello, and Vanity Fair. Original, no; readable, very.

* * *

Last week also saw a massive flame war break out over Ted Rall's Village Voice cover story slamming cartoonist Art Spiegelman, the Maus author who -- according to Rall -- rules the world of comics with an iron hand, dispensing favors (New Yorker covers, especially) to his friends and freezing out his non-friends, particularly younger cartoonists. Aside from that, Spiegelman is accused of being bald, a chain-smoker, a not-very-talented draftsman, an opportunistic money-grubber, a control freak, and the keeper of a Nixonian "enemies list."

The furor over the story erupted into over 100 posts to a web-based message board run by Fantagraphics Books' The Comics Journal, and a two-page letters spread in the following issue of the Voice.

Quickly buried under piles of barely related diatribes and personal attacks -- ah, the petty squabbles of the chat room -- were a few legitimate arguments against the piece. First, it's clear that Spiegelman has done a lot of good for cartoonists in general. Second, you can't argue that Spiegelman's worldwide renown came at the expense of other cartoonists, given that nobody in comics outside of Walt Disney ever got much mainstream attention before him. Third, Spiegelman's ability to grant favors extends from his successes as a cartoonist, but his failures as a cartoonist shouldn't be used to criticize his ability to judge other cartoonists -- like being an editor and a writer, they're completely separate skills. Fourth, Rall's work, which I had a chance to sample last week when a misdirected fax asking us to pick up his weekly comic wound up on my desk, is poorly drawn and not funny, which makes him an odd voice to criticize Spiegelman's comics. Okay, so my third point contradicts my fourth -- sue me! 'Nuff said.

* * *

Correction! I erroneously referred to lead City Hall architect Peter Bohlin as "Jim" in my last dispatch, and misspelled the name of Bassetti, the firm collaborating with his.

* * *

Update! The e-mail address I gave for Redheaded Stepchild, the new zine covering Seattle's alternative art spaces, no longer works. The new address is

Send gossip and complaints to