Monday, January 28, 2008

... and counterpoint

Too tired to deal right now with Mr. Easy For Me to Say, so I'm turning the floor over to someone who makes a little more sense.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Iranian Rhapsody

I used to kind of like Marjane Satrapi, the creator of the cartoon Iranian memoir Persepolis. But no more. Now I'm pretty sure it's love.

One thing she said is especially after my own heart.
Satrapi bristles at a frequent characterization of her work: "I hate this word 'graphic novel.' It is a term publishing houses have created for the bourgeois so they wouldn't be ashamed of buying comics. . . . I'm not a graphic novelist. I am a cartoonist and I make comics and I am very happy about it. I never wanted to make a graphic novel. As soon as you become a 'writer,' you have to be intelligent all the time. . . . I like the fact that I have the right once in a while to say silly things."

Rock on! Even worse than "graphic novel"--which is at least descriptive of length--is when comics creators insist on their work being called "graphic literature." Some creators, and even more sympathetic but clueless critics, are convinced that what the form needs is to be taken seriously as art, like Stendahl and Brahms. Ask yourself how many people read Stendahl or listen to Brahms, and you see the flaw in this plan.

Artistic seriousness may be a virtue, but it's not a selling point. Not that it always runs deep enought to be a virtue either, but that's another story. But the fact is that Shakespeare gains in appeal when kids learn that by studying him they can act out horny gang kids and witch-blessed assassins.

To de-digress, Satrapi is best known for her work on a "serious" subject. So it tickles me that she matter-of-factly describes herself as a cartoonist. It implies that if some sydicate wants to bring back the Little Lulu strip, Satrapi just might be their girl.

She apparently is able to hold up both ends of a conversation, which is good for when a fella is feeling pensive. Plus, a Middle Eastern woman you can drink with? Hey, MS, you seeing anyone?

At the very least I'd like to see her take on "Little Lulu."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Random life lesson

you're likely to give yourself a bad haircut if you're tired and impatient and can't really see anything in back.

You know you have given yourself a bad haircut when people at work worry that you're going in for some brain procedure.

They're nice though. A couple have offered to help me even it out.

Again, Friday Random Ten

Was keeping track of these on paper, but I lost the paper, so the order might be a little off. That's aight though. No one would know if I weren't so goshdarn honest.

1. Dressy Bessy--The Things That You Say That You Do
2. The Clash--I’m So Bored With the USA
3. Chic--Good Times
4. David Bowie--Ashes to Ashes
5. Louis Armstrong--Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya
6. Smart Went Crazy--DC Will Do That to You (Pt. II)
7. Ben Folds Five--Fair
8. Arcade Fire--Rebellion (Lies)
9. Blossom Dearie--I’m Old Fashioned
10. The Beatles--I’m Only Sleeping

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Funny man, sad man

I haven't written anything on the death of Heath Ledger because I didn't think I had anything to add that no one else had added. It's a sad, curious story, though.

Judging from A Knight's Tale and Brokeback Mountain, he had a gift for both breezy comedy and quiet tragedy. How much was he walking a line between the two in real life? Only those who knew him well could safely say. It's somewhat eerie that--as the Times of London reports--he was interested in shooting the life story of Nick Drake. Drake's own death was reported as a suicide, a ruling his family has been fighting for years. Ledger's family may well be making the same case, and it's entirely plausible that this was a case of accidental drug interaction. That of course wouldn't be the juiciest story.

His next film--perhaps the last he'll have completed--is of course The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan's sequel to Batman Begins. I was curious to see what he'd do with the character of the Joker already, and I certainly plan to see it. A lot of people will, I think. But you have to imagine that it will be pretty hard for Nolan and his team to really enjoy their success. Creating fictional terrors does not mean you're prepared for the real thing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Holy Huh? Batman!

Many thanks to Pat at Silver Age Comics for unearthing this Bat-gem. It must be said that this Brave & the Bold story looks truly insane. Not only does its idea of courtship seem to come straight out of a Betty Page photoshoot (except maybe you should have Batgirl doing the spanking, but the writer evidently forgot that Batman has a secret identity. Yes, the Caped Crusader just goes everywhere in costume, whether it's appropriate or not.

Even the warden at the jail let's him keep wearing the cowl. Do the authorities not really care to find out who it is they just arrested? Or maybe they know it's Bruce Wayne, and allowing the suspect to keep his bondage wear is just a courtesty extended to the idle rich. And senators.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hack or no, it's the Friday random ten

One of my friends recently gave me an iPod Nano (which sounds like something Mork would say) over the holidays. I mostly listen to it at work, where I've rigged it with a pair of headphones from a CD Walkman. Not down with putting things inside my ear.

Anyway, it gives me a chance to play the (intermittently) popular blogging sport of the random ten. Ten songs played while on random shuffle mode. So here goes.

  • Tom Waits--Widow's Grove*

  • Shudder to Think--X-French Tee Shirt

  • Neko Case--At Last

  • Elvis Costello & the Attractions--Little Triggers

  • Brian Eno--Over Fire Island

  • Taj Mahal--Corinna

  • The Kinks--Too Much on My Mind

  • The Beastie Boys--Shazam!

  • Sarah Vaughan--Too Little Time

  • LCD Soundsystem--Movement

We may do this again soon, who knows?

*Quite possibly the greatest murder ballad ever recorded.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Something to talk about

In its bitter, caustic way, this is the funniest Doonesbury I've seen in many a moon. I can relate to Mark's chagrin in the last panel. "Why that's the kind of thing we abhor on principle. Um, we still do, right?"

Earlier in this series, the dictator (and I'm not stringing all those consonants together, thankyouverymuch) pegged Mark Slackmeyer as Jewish, but didn't guess that he was gay. Maybe because it would have held up the plot. But I go back and forth as to whether that aspect of the character works. The character was created in the early seventies as a raging heterosexual, if also a radical.

In a quiet way this continued for the next twenty-odd years. Then Trudeau killed off the charming gay lawyer, Andy. I understand why, but kind of regret it anyway. Anyway, Mark was pressed into service as the new representative of non-hetero alignment. He and right-wing former boyfriend Chase, that is.

Like I said, I'm not sure it works. It's like he was one person when the strip was created, and then the "actor" cut his hair and started playing another character.

At this point, it would be awkward to change him back. Still, there are other possibilities for gay characterization in the strip. I'm thinking it might be interesting to out one of BD and Ray's army buddies. That plot twist could piss off all the right people.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

doodle doodle deedle

Let's see, haven't done one of these in a while.

I suspect this may be a better than average cellphone video. But if the quality isn't great, it does capture the band's (Broadcast) inspired weirdness.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tatulli, madly, deeply

My rule about newspapers (for younger readers, they look like pita pockets but are made out of grey wood pulp) is that if all the sections I want aren't there, I don't buy it. This is common sense and refusal to be a victim. It's not like the newsstand will give me a break because the product is defective. Heavens no!

So anyway, I wasn't able to find a complete copy of the Boston Globe today. For that reason I wound up buying the Washington Post. My word. It doesn't make a very good case for itself to those aforementioned newspaper-avoiding youngsters. Couldn't they give David Broder an assignment befitting his talents. Cheese critic, maybe?

One good thing, the magazine has a nice, challenging crossword. Another good thing, their selection of Sunday comics. It was cool to see "Lio" (oddly enough not on the paper's website) at a larger size than on the interweb.

Look at that robot's eyes. Mark Tatulli has been studying his Gahan Wilson, methinks.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Inspired reading

I've been picking my way through the latest issue of the small press mag Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet rather than read the whole thing in one jump. The nice thing about this approach is that neat surptises keep popping up.

Case in point: Benjamin Parzybok's short story "The Coder." The story concerns a software company that has important railroad contracts, but only one programmer. He doesn't speak to anyone, writes near-illegible but perfect code, and lives on the building's roof. It lives up to that premise, too.

Trust me, I'm not just plumping a fellow Ben. Nor am I the only one to appreciate it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A choice of a Hobson kind

So, this week Richardson dropped out, after being swamped again in the New Hampshire primary. Yes, we are at a point where the Democratic field gets cut in half after two electoral contests.


I know I'm late to the party here. Hell, I'm showing up at the address after the charming gay couple who threw the party have packed up and moved to Seattle. Still, I'll go ahead and ask. Why is it that the media decided back in--pretty sure on this--late 2006 that HRC and Obama and maybe Edwards were the only serious presidential candidates on the Dem side. And why has that stood all this time. Well, the words "self-fulfilling prophecy" come to mind.

Richardson in particular I liked because he had a firm out-of-Iraq position, was one of the least bellicose candidates on Iran, and he actually addressed how badly Americans got screwed in the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill, and yes, Congress actually had the balls to slap the words "Consumer Protection" on that turd. Of the other second-tier candidates, I didn't really trust Dodd and have always kind of disliked Biden, in part because they're not responsive on bread/butter issues like the above. And yet they were real candidates, and should have been treated as such. Even Dennis Kucinich's run is considerably less flaky than you might think. Last time around he came in a respectable second in the Hawaii primary, winning six delegates. True, he was the only protest candidate left after Dean dropped out, but at that point no one was supposed to vote for anyone but Kerry, so Kucinich was reaching someone. As long as he's in the race, though, he'll be treated like a clown.

Who's responsible for this state of affairs? Well, who benefits? The list is pretty long. The parties don't like surprises, and so funnel money towards hopefuls that won't give them any. Usually the Republicans are better at this, but Bush's hopeless lack of appeal has thrown them a tad off game. Still, both parties are working it.

The media, too, have a part in this. Playing kingmaker is more likely to work when you've got a small number of potential kings.

All signs point to a conspiracy. Which does not mean a small group of men running the world from an underground bunker (that's a cabal, not a conspiracy.) In this case, it doesn't even mean working closely together towards a common goal. But there are a few people working to avoid something they don't want. Namely, that democracy thing we're trying to export.

Monday, January 7, 2008


Much to say, I'm sure, but not tonight. Too tired, must sleep. Actually, not too long ago I dozed off and dropped the Nintendo DS I was playing with. Luckily a) I was on a mattress, and b) it wasn't an action game.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

N1 I1 C3 E1

At Starbuck's tonight I saw a table of I think seven people playing Scrabble. They could possibly have been students in the same class, as this is a college town. But the most boisterous of them was a man possibly in his fifties, or more likely sixties. I'm pretty sure they weren't all related, as one person was black and another seemed not to be white exactly. So I'm not sure how this group found each other, but I take them as a good sign.

Slash fiction

I went to see Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd today, which is surprising. What's the surprise? That it's still playing. It's the kind of movie that you might expect to close after one weekend. That's not to say it's bad. More that it's intense, in a sometimes uncomfortable way.

This goes beyond the borderline 3D splatter effects. It also transcends the fact that Sacha Baron Cohen's package poked through his breeches in all his scenes. (Shades of the massive black box in his Borat wrestling scene.) For a big-budget film opening in holiday season--and a musical no less--this is remarkably bleak. Burton and his cast follow the all guts/no glory elements of the storyline to their logical conclusion, and there's not a happy ending in sight.

There is a lot to enjoy here. The black humor, for one thing. Helena Bonham Carter has a great deadpan delivery, which smoothes over scenes like Mrs Lovett pouring a tall gin for an older-than-his-years urchin.

And the music of course. Johnny Depp has his first singing role here, and his tenor and Cockney phrasing both have Bowie written all over them. Burton naturally has an affinity with Stephen Sondheim's work. Sondheim may be the Broadway composer most influenced by Kurt Weill, and he passed that influence onto Burton's other favorite musician, Danny Elfman. And "Sweeney", the Brechtian Victorian gothic, was primed for Burton to take hold of it.

But perhaps it's not just a matter of a director being suited to his source material. The times the movie was made could be on its side too. Benjamin Barker's life falls apart when he is thrown in prison
without apparent charges. Timothy Spall's Beadle Bamford is a public servant whose only concern is how well he enforces the will of his master, and by that standart he's an admirable success. And aside from Sweeney--who's a psychopath after all--the people seem to accept this as natural.

Now I don't mean to suggest parallels... Oh, wait, I guess i just did.

Good stuff

Gary Younge has an excellent column in the current Nation, related to Europe and the OHMIGODTHEMUSLIMSARECOMINGWHEREAREALLTHEWHITEBABIES sentiment. An excerpt:

But the primary threat to democracy in Europe is not "Islamofascism"--that clunking, thuggish phrase that keeps lashing out in the hope that it will one day strike a meaning--but plain old fascism. The kind whereby mostly white Europeans take to the streets to terrorize minorities in the name of racial, cultural or religious superiority.

For fascism--and the xenophobic, racist and nationalistic elements that are its most vile manifestations--has returned as a mainstream ideology in Europe. Its advocates not only run in elections but win them. They control local councils and sit in parliaments. In Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France and Italy, hard-right nationalist and anti-immigrant parties regularly receive more than 10 percent of the vote. In Norway it is 22 percent; in Switzerland, 29 percent. In Italy and Austria they have been in government; in Switzerland, where the anti-immigrant Swiss People's Party is the largest party, they still are.

This knowledge is a healthy corrective. Since 9/11 there's been no shortage of people selling racial and religious dread. Ideally, Younge might convince pro-Western patriots to take another look at both their facts and their allies.

And he's just a good writer too. On this side of the Atlantic we too often think of British idiom as an automatic mark of intelligence. It isn't, but the UK has produced its share of sharp stylists, and Younge may be joining them. I'll take him over the sour wino who preceded him.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Brief post before I go off to beddy-bye.

I borrowed a VHS tape from the library recently. To be specific, it was Polanski's Repulsion, in which Catherine Deneuve does some fine walking wounded. Anyway, after I was done watching, I ff'd/rewound and tried to eject. No can do.

I attempted to eject the tape several times after that, each time failing. In fact, the tape would peek out partially, then sink back in and start playing again. I turned the VCR off and kept it off for several days while trying to figure this thing out.

What I finally did tonight was to hit "Eject" again and unplug the machine while the slot was open. Again, the tape was partly out, so I gently pried it the rest of the way with my fingers. It's not totally 100% rewound at this point, but it will have to do.

This has been another exciting adventure...