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Subject:An open letter to Peter David
Time:11:08 pm


Look, I'm really sorry I got angry about this. I'll stand by everything I said, but I put it intemperately. I was angry because something I value was damaged. Maybe you could say the same.

The purpose of the internet is to facilitate communication; to make it possible, to make it easier, and to make it better. Perhaps we did not use the internet correctly.

That said, let's talk about the internet.


The internet is probably here to stay; to put it another way; any interruption would be memorable and probably tragic.

The "internet-for-free" is nearly-as-certainly here to stay. Everything you can possibly imagine will continue to be on the internet for free. There are good practical reasons for this, but here's the philosophical one:

The internet is just about the only thing in the world that gains value the more people use it. Unlike food or land or printed comic books, the internet is never diminished by another person consuming it. Rather, it gets bigger, gets more interesting. Gains value.

The internet will probably expand until it reaches every person on earth, and gives them instant access to any media or information they want. This is not science fiction; this is almost here.

Will it be free?

It is possible to implement a pay structure, but it seems impractical and unlikely to me. The internet gains value through participation. Pay limits participation. Since, in the long run, a pay internet will have fewer users, a pay internet will probably be less valuable than a free internet. The only way it could defeat a free internet would be through rigorous gatekeeping and jealous guarding of content.





It troubles me when people say that you do not understand the Internet. I don't think that's a logical or useful thing to say; you are a modern writer and intellectual, of course you understand the internet. Everyone understands the internet. One types words, they appear. Also music and pictures of kittens.

What they mean to say is that they don't think you understand the internet culture.

Maybe you don't understand the internet culture the way that I do. Some of the things you have written, like interpreting DIAF as anything other than a different way of saying >:[ or chastising people based on age or pseudonym, make me wonder.

So I ask you, how do you feel about that statement? Do you think you "understand" the internet culture?

What do you think the internet is? What do you think it's for?

How would you like to use it?






Let's talk about Star Trek.

When I talk about the Future, I see three distinct Futures:

The 1984 Future
The Philip K. Dick Short Story Future
The Star Trek Future

The Star Trek Future is the one I'm steering towards. It's the one I want. I assume most other people agree.

The 1984 Future maybe comes close some times but they never seem to get it started. It still might happen, but I think the odds are against it. This is the world in which entrenched entities squash anything that threatens them the least bit, and progress cannot help us because progress has been stamped out.

The PKD Future is my cute way of saying "nuclear wasteland of horrible mutants and madness." Nobody wins.

The Star Trek Future is no war, no hate, no racism, no sexism, no money, those citizens who so choose work to advance humanity (and all forms of life) in whichsoever direction they like and those who do not choose are, we assume, left alone to have endless holodeck orgies and wear transporter-beam beer hats that teleport alcohol directly into their bloodstream. Everybody does anything they want to, nobody gets hurt.

I want that future, or at least a decent approximation. Is it possible?

How the heck should I know?

But I definitely want that one.


Which future does the Internet belong to? The Star Trek future, of course. In Star Trek you say, computer play this song and it plays that song. They don't charge you anything for it. Kirk can watch any movie, read any book, hear any song.


The internet is nothing less than machine-assisted telepathy. If I want to find out what some guy in Guinea-Bissou thinks about their President being assassinated by their military last week, I can ask him. If I want to find out what some teenager in Norway is playing on a Casio keyboard, I can find out. If I want to know how to cook kolaches and I only speak Urdu, I will learn how less than a minute from now.

And when they have Iphones down to earpiece size with projector screens, then you're really gonna see something.

Do you see why this future is desirable? Do you see why this future is something that I wish to protect, and nurture, and if possible get to by next Tuesday? There are three directions, that's the good one, let's go! Any step that way is a step in the right direction.

What do you think?



As to the actual incident.

Obviously you know that your comics, like all comics, are on the internet in a zillion different places, some of them in other countries who don't care about American copyright law. That has not changed but that's not even what this is about.

Scans_daily was expressly not a place to get full copies of your comics, but very much a place for discussion of fractional parts of a work. Your argument seems to be that we discussed too much.

You could say that you're vigorously prosecuting your rights but surely you see that you have different rights here than we do. Not in theory, no; in theory they are the same. They are different in application. And the law is all about application.

The interesting thing here is that your work has crowded our work out. After all, we added content to the comics medium. We served as a review and analysis forum, and produced a nontrivial amount of quality work. Now five years of collective efforts have been lost to lawyers and law, which chooses to protect your (and your community's) interests over ours. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I don't think anyone could disagree that's what happened. Because our work contained some of your work, our work could not be suffered to exist.

And here's the difference between me and you (I'll use myself example, though I don't think this discussion is about me, and I'm sorry if it ever came across that way. My point was always that it was not about you, and it was certainly not about me, it was about a community of which I used myself as an example):

I cannot vigorously prosecute people who repost my work (and I don't mean my reviews, I mean my actual original creative artwork). Because I am not an established creator with the Big Two.

I can't hire a lawyer. I can't afford one. I sure don't have Marvel's legal department on call. Even if I did sue somebody and make it stick, there would be one instant reaction; people would stop reading my comics. If my comics were not on the internet, people wouldn't read them much. That's a fact.

So the law does not apply equally here. I can't do what you just did. And I hope you see why I frame this as a conflict between New Media and Old Media; because the law is very one-sided here. It works for you but it does not work for me.

To go back to the larger issue, fractional use of your work has caused a very substantial body of comics knowledge and content to disappear. Would it be a stretch to compare the end of scans_daily to the destruction of a well-read magazine?



Mister David, do you and I need to make a living? Heck yeah we need to make a living.

But can we do this in the face of a changing technology?

When I look at what's coming, five or ten years down the line, I think the internet will be free and creators will make their money off of selling print copies to niche markets, doing events (like conventions, speeches, signings, and live art shows), selling one-of-a-kind works, t-shirts and merchandise, and commissions. I don't know things are going to be "as good." It doesn't seem to me that they were ever that good, and I hope things may be a little "better." I suspect it will be a little better. But the idea of trying to "control" my work on the internet, when there are countries that don't even care about copyright laws, seems completely impossible to me, and not even desirable. I don't think I will ever make money along the old paradigm. I suspect, in a few years, you might not either.

Copyright and royalties: are you really planning to try to change the fundamental philosophy of the internet in order to make a little more money? I can't imagine you do. Let me put it to you in sentimental terms -- would you hold back Star Trek even one year to make an extra buck?

Let's put it another way; consider this statement:

"They have invented a machine that allows any human being alive to hear any song, watch any movie, or read any book, for free, instantly."

What reason can you think of that is good enough to destroy this machine?



Now, honestly, Mister David. You helped break our community. It was not self-contained like your comics work. It was a social organization that has been badly disrupted. And your words after were anything but understanding.

I think it is very, very appropriate to ask you for an apology. Or at least ask you to not run around yelling about how we deserved to have our work destroyed by somebody we loved and respected.

I mean, these are comic book fans. These are people, myself included, who you have trained over a period of decades to understand you, to listen to you and to care what you talk about. Why are you after us?

The miller has every right to look out the window and say, "Hey Don Quixote; why my windmill?" This is our creation, our great work of art. The biggest and best in human history. When you deal with "internet culture" you are dealing with an international consortium of the best-educated people this world has ever seen. We want you to be part of this. I believe that we would like to invite you to join us.

I am trying to appeal to you sentimentally, and philosophically. This is not about a single instant or a single incident; this is the larger picture, this is about the internet itself. Wouldn't you like to be part of this?

Maybe it's naive, but maybe it's not too late for some good to come out of this thing. You yourself said that you wish you'd seen some of the posts on s_d before they were taken down. In scans_daily you are dealing with a group of people who would love to forgive you and invite you into the community. We'd like to hear what you think. We'd love it if you posted old comics you loved and talked about why you loved them. We want to hear what you think! That's why we talk about your work; because it's good!

Yeah, you have to take your lumps, and yeah, there are trolls who will never stop bugging you. And the more one argues, the more people argue back -- this is the nature of the internet. But, like I said, this is a group of people that you have painstakingly taught to pay attention to you. I bet it wouldn't take long before both sides found all was forgiven.

I think this whole thing can turn out well if we look at the bigger picture.



Gillian Welch's song "Everything is Free" addresses this exact situation. I would also like to recommend Bruce Sterling's excellent short story Maneki Neko as a plausible glimpse of where this might be going.
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the_eleven
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-06 08:29 pm (UTC)
Broken tag in the second big paragraph, second linebreak.

endless holodeck orgies

Marilyn Monroe on a very large stack of blueberry pancakes covered with compote please.

The Star Trek Future is the one I'm steering towards.

The Star Trek Future also included an Eugenics War along the way. I suspect if we get there it will briefly (or not so briefly) resemble one of the other two possible futures.

I think the internet will be free and creators will make their money off of [stuff]

I agree, looks like the Grateful Dead model will have to win out in the end.

vv good post.
(Reply) (Thread)


megatexas
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-06 10:43 pm (UTC)
fixed, and thanks. Sorry it was way too long.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)


vapni
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-07 12:01 am (UTC)
Is it really true Peter David seems to be getting too big for his britches?? I have loved his incredible Hulk work. And what is the comic book world's take on JOHN BYRNE? The once and future thing?
(Reply) (Thread)


megatexas
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-07 12:32 am (UTC)
Well, now it looks like Marvel is suspending individual LJ accounts for having posted things on scans_daily, even though the community has already been suspended...
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)

(Anonymous)
Subject:Excellent article, but...
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-07 01:50 am (UTC)
Geoff, this was a well-written argument in defense of s_d, but it does fail to take one aspect of this argument into account.

Should the right for s_d to exist take precedence when by its very nature, it subverts the right of Peter (and Marvel, in a lesser sense) to reap the rewards of his work? When s_d's continued success is based upon violating the rights of the creator and publisher, how can its success therefore be justified?

I'm not trying to start a flame war- quite the opposite. In this case, I think that there's a philosophical issue that would have to be addressed directly before I (and many others) could accept that s_d was a good thing for the comics industry, given that it (indirectly) hurt the industry through the violation of the rights of the publisher and creator.
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(Deleted comment)

megatexas
Subject:Re: Excellent article, but...
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-07 06:36 am (UTC)
Impossible to say for sure, but we have this much to go on:

Comics sales have increased steadily over the last eight years, with a small dip last year that's probably related to The Economy.
Anecdotal evidence from s_d posters indicates that a LOT of people bought stuff based on what they saw on s_d.
My sales certainly improved.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)


megatexas
Subject:Re: Excellent article, but...
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-07 06:46 am (UTC)
I do not know who I'm talking to here, and I'm very curious I must admit. But you don't have to identify if you don't care to.

s_d did not, IMO, subvert PAD's right to make money off his work. It expanded it by expanding the reach of his work. s_d was NOT a place to get whole issues -- it was clearly a place to discuss comics, with the explicit motive of bringing people into the art form and therefore the implied motive of getting people to buy them.

You cannot easily assert that "if this stuff was not available on the internet everyone would go out and buy it." That seems like a major assumption to me and I don't think it's true.

However, my larger point was that this cannot work in the long run. In the long run the nature of the internet will cause free work to drive pay work out. As there is more and more quality work available for free, the free internet will eventually make the pay internet small and silly.

And I think it's a good thing.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)

(Anonymous)
Subject:Re: Excellent article, but...
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-07 11:00 am (UTC)
(Same person here, check the IP)

Your focus is on the "pay internet," which is an excellent philosophical question to discuss in the long term but I'm afraid it's also a straw man argument, in this case. The issue is not whether or not information should be free. After all, Marvel's primary form of delivery is not over the internet via subscription.

The crux of the issue here is the medium by which the creator's work is disseminated to the public, and the terms by which that transaction is completed. In this case, the creator (Peter) signed an agreement for which his creative work would be put on the market by a single distributor (in this case, Marvel). The method of distribution was predetermined by Marvel to be through the form of the comic book, save for promotional efforts that would include copyrighted images being placed on the internet by Marvel for the purpose of promotion of its intellectual property. Scans_Daily, by posting images that include the art and the writing from these books, prevents the transaction by which the public is expected to obtain the work of the creator.

(That others can argue that one can go to a bookstore or shop and read the book without buying the book is also besides the point- after all, legally that person can't make photocopies and distribute them to others for gain.)

There's another aspect that should be considered- did Scans_daily use any form of advertising on their site? (disclaimer: I did not visit scans_daily, and thus cannot confirm the answer.) If so, then the site would be financially benefitting by posting these scans. That would be a legal issue, one that Marvel would be within its rights to pursue.

Had there solely been discussion with written descriptions of the artwork, then Scans_Daily would be in a far better position as that would be entirely original work. By posting copyrighted images (no matter the number) without the express consent of Marvel, they weaken the entire position upon which they legally stand.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)


megatexas
Subject:I disagree entirely with your characterization of my central point as a straw-man argument, and I re
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-07 02:42 pm (UTC)
Marvel can predetermine all they like; my point is that the territory has changed under their feet and their model will no longer apply. You're taking a view of property that is explicitly real-world linked; if one person uses a property another cannot. This does not work on the internet. If two people use the same information on the internet it gains value -- it is worth more.

Is it worth more money?

I can answer that question; indirectly, absolutely. As PAD has himself pointed out, comic sales have climbed slowly but perceptibly through the last eight years. I think this is related to the internet and its concomitant de-ghettoization of comics -- to be blunt, it removes the medium from its sweaty male nerd origins, and places it in a context where the other half of the population can get to it. But the whys are not important, and the answer to your question is, yes. Indirectly, absolutely.

I believe it was mechanicaljewel who made the wonderful point that copyright laws are not set in stone, and they do change, usually in response to new technology. Marvel is trying to protect a distribution channel that no longer exists, and they're hurting themselves, terribly, by going after individual LJ users.

BTW, copyright law gives one a right to a copy -- the ability to port between comics form and computer form has been well established (it's like a mix tape, if you own a copy you can have it on whatever medium you like), so I do have the clear right to have any comic I ever bought from Marvel on my computer. But I do NOT want to get into discussing specific copyright law here because my whole point is that is an irrelevant and harmful structure that we creators need to excise for our own good. Plus I'm not a lawyer and odds are you aren't either.

There's another aspect that should be considered- did Scans_daily use any form of advertising on their site? (disclaimer: I did not visit scans_daily, and thus cannot confirm the answer.) If so, then the site would be financially benefitting by posting these scans. That would be a legal issue, one that Marvel would be within its rights to pursue.

Oh, no. Not even slightly. This will affect your post-mortem, I'm afraid, because this is not a question anyone with direct experience of the site could ever ask. s_d was a LJ community and nothing more. There was no central authority (besides the mods, who were more like referees), no money, no pay advertisement even a little bit. At all, ever, in any way.

I remain curious as to who you are, since you seem comfortable to refer to both me and Mr. David by first name, and you seem like a reasonable person who actually believes in copyright law. This narrows the field of who it could be considerably. If you are not using first names as rhetorical devices I have it down to about five people.

Hope that answers your questions. I'm not arguing around PAD's point, I'm taking the larger view that in five or six years his point is going to be totally irrelevant, and he can either get in front of the future, or behind it, or he can get on his Polish cavalry horse and charge the Panzers and see what happens.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)


megatexas
Subject:Re: I disagree entirely with your characterization of my central point as a straw-man argument, and
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-07 02:50 pm (UTC)
ha, my hilarious title got cut off by LJ. Here it is in full:

I disagree entirely with your characterization of my central point as a "straw-man" argument, and I really wish people didn't throw that term around so much these days, because it newer seems to apply very well when they do.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)

(Anonymous)
Subject:In this case, I'm not really anyone of importance.
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-08 04:44 pm (UTC)
(Again, same person, should be same IP Address)

The reason I haven't logged into an ID is because I don't have one, and honestly didn't feel like creating one. However, thank you for the complement of saying I'm a reasonable person. I know several people that might argue that, but that's for another time.

My internet moniker is Finley, and I am one of the managing editors for www.Wetwired.org, an Austin-based blog and commentary site. I didn't always believe as I do now (which is not too far from your own premise), that while the internet will eventualy turn into a much more "open source" (God, I hate that term sometimes) of information it must still work within the confines of the laws of the land upon which the servers are based. There is a need for change- I agree. However, until that change comes we need to work within the system to change it. Thus, why I'm on the side of Marvel and Peter David on this one. Their argument is the one that has the best legal standing, were it to come to someone who paid much more money than me for their education.

Knowing that S_D did not have advertising revenue does lessen the gray area of the issue, but it still does not take away the fact that under the current system (no matter if it is "right" or "wrong"), they were operating outside the confines of statute and law. By doing so, they were placing themselves in potential financial jeopardy should one of the publishers decide to assert their copyright through lawsuit. Based on that and on LJ's terms of service, removing the site to purge scans (or any other questionably legal materials) would be the only option until a copyright-friendly version of the site can be relaunched.

So far as the comfort level, it's more along the lines that since I'm not the New York Times I don't often refer to people solely by their last name. It just seems too... impersonal.

On a side note, we're preparing an interview for Peter that we will run on our site once it's completed. We wanted to give him an opportunity to address some of the issues that we're talking about here, and to do so in what can pass for a neutral site. I do hope you would take a look, and be willing to engage the conversation in as pleasant a tone as has been struck here.

(One last note: the "straw man" comparison was based soelly on the definition of the term as taught to me in high school. It wasn't meant to be a perjorative, simply what I felt defined the target of your concerns rather than what I felt were the underlying issues of the whole brouhaha. No offense intended.)

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(Anonymous)
Subject:One last question
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-08 04:51 pm (UTC)
You mentioned that by sharing the information it gains value. Since in this case copyright law tends to protect the financial value of information rather than the intrinsic value of informaiton, do you feel that the two can be reconciled to the point where S_D would be allowed to function better?

As an example, can S_D request preview images from a publisher without relying on scans from readers, thus allowing for a more open dialogue with the publishers? Would that not help S_D grow as a resource, since it would open up a channel for information that it does not currently have?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)


megatexas
Subject:Re: One last question
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-09 06:12 am (UTC)
You mentioned that by sharing the information it gains value. Since in this case copyright law tends to protect the financial value of information rather than the intrinsic value of informaiton, do you feel that the two can be reconciled to the point where S_D would be allowed to function better?

Function better? Always. Long-term solution? I think it's impossible -- what I'm talking about is not necessarily what I want, or what works best for s_d. This stuff is going to happen. We are a very, very little part of it. Technology has made copyright law practically impossible and with the exception of corporate trademark defense will probably sweep it away fairly soon. There will probably always be occasional resurgence. That's exactly what the Kerfluffle was -- an anomalous event, a resurgence of an outdated paradigm. When you think about how much perfectly legal information was posted there, plus all the "propietary" information that was alright with its creators, you'll see why this sort of thing will be less and less common.

I mean, nobody's gonna post PAD stories any more. 'least not as often.

As an example, can S_D request preview images from a publisher without relying on scans from readers, thus allowing for a more open dialogue with the publishers?

Individual readers could, of course. If they wanted to.

Would that not help S_D grow as a resource, since it would open up a channel for information that it does not currently have?

Well, we never really thought of ourself as a resource until this event -- it just sort of happened. Since this seems to be driving us to become much more official, it might be possible. It's not a question anyone ever bothered to ask before. We're just an lj community. The San Diego community doesn't have a liason with the city chamber of commerce; why should we be getting official information from the Big Two? Until recently it wasn't like that.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)


megatexas
Subject:miscellany
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-08 07:14 pm (UTC)
My IP logging is on to protect me from precisely one person, an insane ex-roommate. I don't mind anonymous commenting; usually if people do it they sign their posts, but you don't have to.

None of us here are particularly "people of importance," I wouldn't worry about that. Austin, eh? Did you make it to Staple yesterday? Jolly good fun. I'm also a little curious about how you found this blog.

I differ from you slightly on nettiquette -- I refer to everyone by their internet monikers unless I know them personally. I do know Mister David, not particularly well but we've met a few times and had some very good conversations -- I interviewed him in 2004 for a magazine that died before we published it, for example. I don't feel comfortable referring to him by first name because I don't know him that well, and I don't think he's very pleased with me at the moment. I save first names for people I know well IRL, which is many of the readers of this blog. YMMV, that's just how I do it.

I'd love to talk to Mr. David again, and look forward to SDCC. If he's willing to discuss things with me, I'd be happy to. Unfortunately, I think you may find that he tires of the subject soon, because if it is true that Marvel is targeting individual LJ users this will become a much bigger deal than he wanted it to be.

According to the wikipedia definition what I was doing is not a straw man argument, and I agree. I like to avoid any debate tactic used by neoconservatives (although I found the "You're Dave Sim" "Well you're Anne Coulter" exchange in the original kerfluffle-starting post hilarious, because they were both right. Not sure if you saw that bit, but it was great).

I am not arguing the law precisely -- maybe that's why you are calling it a straw-man argument. Nobody doubts that PAD could use the law to do what he did, because he just did. My argument is that the law is inherently unjust and obsolete, and that he needs to look at the bigger picture before he becomes The Metallica of Comic Books, which I think most people agree Would Be A Bad Thing. I also do not agree that working within a terrible system is the best way to change it.

One thing that has become pretty clear is that there was no problem until PAD made a problem. Law, schmaw. PAD hurt himself, and Marvel, and the comics industry terribly, and he is using the law as a gun to shoot himself in the foot. Again, the only real effect of this is that a community was disrupted and forced to relocate sans five years of work, and LJ, Marvel, and PAD have all engendered years worth of bad will. Nothing has changed, except now a lot of people don't like each other. Not worth it. Not worth it at all. I'm hoping that I can help him see that, because we comics fans seem united; we'd rather see PAD be part of the future than the past.

We are fighting for a civil right here; the right to own the own contents of our own brains. It's not racism or sexism or even gay marriage but it is important. The law is absolutely not on our side and that's why the law needs to change and intelligent creators like PAD need to look at the big picture. His right (and need) to make money cannot reasonably fly in the face of technology and society. It's not just that it's a bad idea and harmful to all concerned. It just plain won't work. The longer the timeline the worse it works.

I want to be clear to you that PAD is in a very different position than you and me and that even if you manage to protect his rights it will not help yours or mine -- there will never be royalties on blog writing, ever. I am convinced of this. PAD may win a battle but he can't win this war. Offshore and orbital serving, if nothing else, will make copyright law utterly moot within the near future. Not to mention the growing and encroaching public domain, of which my work is a part.

I'd also like to say that, though I enjoy your blog, if you truly want to be part of this Atomic Kerfluffle we're in you should be very, very careful about "girls are dumb" comments. You are defending the man who writes Vampirella. There's gonna be some feminist anger here. You don't want to be on the wrong end of that.
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(Anonymous)
Subject:Re: miscellany
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-09 12:49 am (UTC)
I'll forward that criticism on to the woman that wrote that article- I don't disagree with you, on that point.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)


megatexas
Subject:Re: miscellany
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-09 06:12 am (UTC)
Ha, of course I assumed it was a man that wrote the article.

This stuff is tricky. It's usually best to just avoid the subject unless it's hella important.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)

(Anonymous)
Subject:Re: miscellany
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-09 03:22 pm (UTC)
No worries, good sir- and unfortunately, while Wetwired is based in Austin I am in career-based exile in Oklahoma City. Thus, no Staple this weekend.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)


pjoseph
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-11 02:40 am (UTC)
Very well said, cutting right to the heart of the issue. I've been away from LJ for a week or so and seemed to have missed all the excitement.

(Reply) (Thread)


megatexas
Link:(Link)
Time:2009-03-13 12:15 am (UTC)
It is still going on -- Marvel is apparently targeting individual users now! so my GI joe posts may get my lj yoinked at any second. I like to live dangerously.

Where were you all last week! You fail at calling me back and also at being at Staple. I missed y'all.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)

[icon] radio free north hollywood - An open letter to Peter David
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