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Thursday, July 15, 2004
Too many comics!

One of the reasons I was excited to move into my new house was so that all of my comics could finally live in the same place. I had never seen them all in the same place before (and I still haven't; there're still a few boxes at my parents' house in KC), so I was a bit surprised and overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of boxes once I had recovered them all from storage and "storage" (yes, I paid to store some while others were boarded at my in-laws'). As a result, I spent a good portion of last weekend sorting through the boxes, trying to decide which ones to keep, which ones to cull from my collection, and, for the first time ever, actually cataloging my collection into a spreadsheet (in some ways it's sad that I even have to).

Doing all this for the first time in years got me thinking, and I'm curious how others deal with maintaining their collection. So, I have some questions for you comic readers/collectors out there:

1. How often do you get rid of comics?
2. How do you decide what comics you keep and which ones to get rid of?
3. What do you do with the ones you're getting rid of (donate them to the library or hospital, sell them on eBay, give them to friends, throw them away)?
4. How do you keep track of your collection? (By spreadsheet? Database? In your head?)
5. Do you track only titles and issue numbers, or do you also track creators?
6. How do you organize the physical issues in your collection? By company? Creator? Strict alphabetical? No discernable organization?

I ask because this weekend's project is to try to decide what order I want to keep them in for the long haul (or until I have the time to sort them again) and I'm curious what systems work for other folks because I'm stumped. I've always kept my collection in more or less strictly alphabetical order by title, but I'm finding I have some titles that I only have an issue or two of (occasionally an arc) here or there and I'm trying to decide where to file them.
With a crossover, it's easy, I just file it with whatever title I collect that it crosses over with, but what about random comics by creators I like? If I file the single issues alphabetically, I'll probably never think to pull them out again, but if I file them by creator, where do I stop? Do Ellis' Excalibur issues go with Ellis' other books or with Excalibur, which I have a full run of? Where would the Ellis-written three issue Excalibur spin-off Pryde & Wisdom go?. On top of that, I'm feeling an urge to rearrange them into alphabetical boxes by publisher or imprint, but I don't know where that's coming from.

Further complicating the issue for me is that I sadly have about the same number of unread comics as I do those that I've read (the result of too much expendable income, too frequent visits to cheap bins, and not enough free time). Some of those I know I'll want to get rid of as soon as I read them, but it doesn't make sense to throw them out before I've read them; others I suspect I'll want to keep long term (but why?). So do I file the comics in two sets of boxes: read and unread? That seems to make sense, but it means that I'll have to reorganize sooner (assuming I find the time to read the unread ones). And what about the series' that are ongoing? The "read" boxes for those will have to constantly be reorganized to make room for the newly read books and new acquisitions, so maybe I should file them in three sets of boxes: read - finite series', read - ongoings, and unread. Arrgh!

To you non-comics folks, or those for whom comics are a disposable commodity, I realize this is an incredibly geeky post. The fact is, I tend to avoid organizing my comics for as long as possible, just so I don't have to think about things like this. Unfortunately, it has to be done, and my collector's mentality (which extends to books, CDs, DVDs, and Star Wars Legos - though I've been able to ween myself off action figures) won't let me get rid of them once I've read them, freeing though that may be.

For you comics folks, what works for you? Your input is invaluable.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Down by the old mainstream or, How I learned to stop worrying and love the mainstream

My good friend Indy's recent posting about how he tried to like Rush but never could, got me thinking about how the tastes of one's friends or peer group can influence one's own tastes, and not necessarily in a good way. You see, in high school and college I, along with many of my peers, prided myself in not liking whatever was popular. Especially when it came to music, I actively avoided anything that I saw as "popular."

Way too much of my free time was spent at Disc Traders, the local independent music store where, unlike at Best Buy or Musicland, you could actually listen to CDs pre-purchase. My friends and I would hang out there for hours on end, trying to find the most obscure bands that we hoped would become our new "find." When we got into a new band, we always wanted to share it with our friends, but if it started to get radio airplay on any station other than KU's The Lazer, we'd drop it like a hot potato. As a result, most of the CDs I bought were firmly in the "alternative" or "indy" category. I justified liking a few "popular" bands like U2 and REM by saying that they had worked their way up from indy roots, so they were "okay." Rush, while never "alternative" was a far cry from popular, and at my high school they were kind of the secret band that only the cool kids knew about (obviously, that's why Indy tried so hard to like them.)

Similarly, as soon as I could drive (or my friends could), I saw practically every indy movie that came through the Tivoli, Kansas City's arthouse theatre, during the indy movie craze of the mid-nineties. And aside from the schlock horror movies that I rented with Bruce and J., most of the movies I rented were indy or foreign films. Many of my friends and I vocally derided big-budget mainstream fair (while oddly embracing movies like the two Young Guns flicks, Braveheart and The Three Amigos). I found myself in regular arguments with other friends in defense of low-budget movies which I knew weren't very good.

I avoided series TV shows like the plague, choosing to spend my TV-watching time watching MTV's 120 Minutes (and Alternative Nation and Beavis & Butthead, both of which Bruce Sato and I watched every night, allegedly to make fun of) and late night Showtime (you figure out what I was watching). I laughed at the people who congregated in the dorm lobbies to watch Must See TV on Thursday nights and felt sorry for people whose lives were ruled by the tube.

Then, in late college and immediately thereafter, something changed. I started buying CDs by artists like Counting Crows, Johnny Cash and others, and listening to them more than I listened to my old stuff. After college, I moved into an apartment with two ladies who had been out of college a year longer than me. One of these roommates in particular had TV shows that she taped every night, and I found myself watching them with her (including Must See TV, much to my chagrin). The three of us spent every Friday night at the local megaplex, seeing whatever the biggest release of the week. And, perhaps worst of all, I found myself humming . . . Okay, singing along with Spice Girls songs whenever they came on the radio or MTV.

I still struggled against these base desires, but it was hard. Whenever I rented an indy movie, I was usually bored or disappointed. I discovered whole new worlds of music that I had previously written off as being "too popular." And you know what? Life started being more fun.

Don't hear me wrong: I'm not saying that all indy movies or music is bad. Nor am I saying that everything popular is good. I hate most rap-metal with a passion surpassing even my loathing of Brittney/X-tina/Jessica Simpson and boy bands. I think Independence Day and Godzilla (the US version) are two of the worst movies ever made.

What I am saying is that I started enjoying life more when I stopped struggling so hard not to like things that appealed to me just because I and my peer group perceived them to be "too mainstream." Dave Matthews Band is consistently among the top grossing touring acts of each year, so it's no surprise that the pre-1997 me hated DMB and "everything they stood for." Now, though, I can admit that DMB is probably up there in my top five bands. The old me never would have considered seeing the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings movies, yet I saw the new Harry Potter movie last night, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself (I think I liked the second one best so far, though). The old me would have committed hari-kari before watching an entire American football game. Now, I have an unhealthy love for my NFL Sunday Ticket package.

There are still movies, bands and TV shows that I avoid, but I tend to give things more of a chance to appeal to me these days than I ever would have in the past. I still take recommendations from friends, but if I don't like something, I don't feel obligated to keep trying to like it, or worse pretending to like it, in order to be "in" with the crowd. And I very rarely write something off, simply due to my perception of it's audience. Except books. I'm still a book snob at heart.

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