Sunday, August 31, 2008

2 comx 2 luk n2 (sorry)

The other day the Globe ran a story on Maryland-to-Mass emigre Jeph Jacques and his creation Questionable Content. There are so many webcomics out there that it's a little difficult to stand out. It's a good thing that QC has succeeded where others have failed.

If Jacques' work is likely to be confused with anyone else's, it's RK Milholland's Something Positive. Both are set in the world of contemporary twenty-somethings, but QC is probably a little sunnier that s*p. The flights of fancy elements are quite distinct as well. Anyway, the world must be broad enough to accomodate both.

Very different, but well worth the time to seek it out, is Josh Pasto's The Other Kids. Currently "Kids" is showing on's Comics Sherpa service. It's there to get noticed, and may if it's lucky appear in newspapers in a few years. You know, if there are newspapers in a few years. Anyway, Pasto has a fresh and mordant take on childhood long after I would have thought that vein was fully tapped. As seen in the example below, he's also got a sharp and forward eye for design.

The way he keeps the upper right of the panel "clean" until he's ready to use it suggests a sophisticated Japanese influence. More power to him.

Friday, August 29, 2008

We don't get much call for it around here.

I'll be posting again this weekend, I think. Have to investigate current events a little more. Rumor has it that John McCain has named Michael Palin as his running mate. That's a good choice, because it gives him the element of surprise. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. But doesn't the VP have to be from here? And isn't Palin from Dutchland or someplace. Like I said, I have to do some digging.

Non-leaked Friday Random Ten

Looking up "blogger" on, I saw a report that a blogger had been arrested for leaking new Guns n' Roses tracks on the internet. That puts kind of a crimp in my plans. I was going to leak a new joint recorded by Jimi Hendrix and Tupac. (Yeah, I thought so too, but it turns out they;ve both just been lying low for a while.) Oh well, looks like I'll have to stick to floating titles.

1. Tom Waits--Jesus Gonna Be Here
2. Duke Ellington--So Far So Good
3. Regina Carter--Don't Explain
4. Gnarls Barkley--St. Elsewhere
5. Ruby--Tiny Meat
6. The 5,6,7,8's--I've Got a Man
7. The Who--Armenia, City in the Sky
8. Randy Newman--Guilty
9. Battles--Atlas
10. Tori Amos--Talula (The Tornado Mix)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Getting Mile High

I did happen to see Obama's acceptance speech tonight. It followed a formula, as they all do. But overall, I think it ranks as a success.

Barack Obama certainly comes off as All-American here. Granted, Appalachians and a lot of older voters may have different criteria--to put it nicely--for what's American and what ain't. But I think people watching at home, those who are somewhat open at least, can look at this performance and say, "What? This is the guy I'm supposed to be afraid of?'

The most important thing he did was to praise John McCain for valor in fighting for America, then ripping him a new one on just about everything else. It's an important point to make: the presidency isn't a military pension. "Thanks for goint to Vietnam 40 years ago" does not translate into, "Here's the missile launch codes. Good luck."

Obama also shot back at the charge that he hasn't put the country first. Of course as much as he was responding to McCain and his campaign, that part was aimed even more at Joe Lieberman, who'll be addressing the Republicans in the Twin Cities in a few days. Hey, if you can rally the troops by tapping their resentment of that sanctimonious wiener, go for it.

Finally, it was nice to hear wild applause for the speech's references to same-sex partner rights. Yes, the crowd might be expected to be a little more liberal than average, but I'd guess straight males are at least a plurality. A standing O for the nominee addressing "our gay brothers and sisters" would not have happened just a few short years ago.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I'm an elite. In current usage I am, at least. This despite living in a one-room apartment, having a good number of miners and assembly-line workers in my family tree, and working my own first jobs as a dishwasher and mail-sorter.

That's because "elite", now that it's been divorced from economics and class, has basically taken on the meaning of "different." It's become a dysphemism or cacophemism in that way. You can't just accuse someone of being different in those exact words without tipping your hand that your appealing to dumb prejudice. Throw around "elite" though, and you pick up a salt-of-the-earth quality.

Politicians who aim high are vulnerable to accusations of eliteness, because they've led lives and may stand out in some ways. Barack Obama is a black man from a mostly Asian-Pacific state, and has a half-sister who identifies as Buddhist, for starters. Hillary Clinton kept her maiden name during Bill's first term as Arkansas governor, and named her daughter after a Joni Mitchell song. McCain has worn the POW background into mundanity. Otherwise, that might strike voters as a trifle peculiar as well.

This weaponizing of "elite"ness is not good for any politico with a brain, but some of them deal with it better than others. Unfortunately the damage spreads further. A lot of Americans have opinions and backgrounds that mark them as different. To dismiss them as "elite" is to discourage people who consider themselves "normal" from giving half a thought to what they have to say.

I guess my point is that while presidential candidates wolf down chili dogs and choose neutral ties, the rest of us need to reclaim the weird. Weird is beautiful.

BTW, you know what "dysphemism" is now, so you're elite too.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

California hallucinatin'

One of my favorite Hollywood anecdotes involves the first screening of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Oddity. According to legend, Rock Hudson stood up when the lights came on and yelled, "What the fuck did I just watch?" Gee, I hope that's true.

If there's a movie made in the last few years that invites, even demands that kind of response, Richard Kelly's Southland Tales is that movie. Kelly, of course, first came to attention as the director of Donnie Darko. Your liking one does not guarantee you liking the other. There are themes that run between the two movies, but the treatment is markedly difference.

ST could be seen as a mixture of Philip K. Dick, Saturday Night Live (a major source of supporting actors), Left Behind, Alan Moore's graphic novels, that stupid reality show with Britney and K-Fed, and a host of other things I won't name now. While I believe that I understood pretty much everything I saw, it defies synopsis. Trying to describe the plot to a friend earlier tonight, I got a couple of sentences in, stumbled into a "wait a minute, but really..." and got no further.

The Iraq War is involved, and because of a nuclear attack that destroys Abilene, TX, PATRIOT Act measures have become even more draconian. To the point where just about anything you see happen, someone else is watching on some kind of screen. Republican's are hoping to ride a wave of xenophobia to an easy third term, and as for the Democrats, a brief shot of a Clinton-Lieberman logo is all you hear of them. Opposition mainly comes from the Neo-Marxists, a bombthrowing radical organization with some major Judaean People's Front/People's Front of Judaea issues. But there's a good chance both the rebels and the Empire are being manipulated by Baron von Westphalen (Wally Shawn), a melodrama villain who's become an environmental savior in the public eye. Oh, and time is destroying itself, so all the above may be moot.

You see the problems that might arise for Kelly. He spent five years and tens of millions of dollars making a self-negating art film. (Not quite, though. See update.) Too big to recoup its costs on the arthouse circuit, too iffy and strange for most exhibitors, it never really opened in secondary markets and below. Basically, Kelly courted disaster and disaster said, "Yes."

But what is it like watching the movie? Not perfect. There's no Darko-like character to identify with. Seann William Scott's out-of-depth cop is the protagonist by default. Infodumps are necessary to keep the plot somewhat comprehensible, in part because no one has ever read the comic books Kelly wrote to introduce the premise and characters. That produces some clunky exchanges, although the clunkiness is self-aware.

Yet overall, I'd give it a positive, even glowing review. Part of the reason is that if you approach it as comedy, it works. It's funny. There's a dichotomy. The story juggles a dozen oblique scientific and philosophical ideas, but the cast never hesitates to go for a gut-level laugh. As the amnesiac actor who sets the plot in motion (maybe) Dwayne "No longer the Rock" Johnson takes comic stiffness to Adam West levels. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays it so dumb, real porn stars will stand up and scream "Lies!", but she's kind of lovable in her thickness. And Cheri Oteri (one of the SNL emigres) gives fiery support as a scheming Neo-Marxist. Plutonium in the form of a Venice CA crunchy.

Another thing I like about Southland Tales is the way it puts grim aspects of current American life onscreen without being horribly depressing. Reality TV and wartime desperation are treated with a kind of slapstick catharsis. Meanwhile there's something that comes next, even if that something is oblivion.

Finally, I'd recommend it as a unique experience. This movie has not been made before, and won't be again. It's massive commercial failure is part of the reason. But it's also a film that nobody else would have thought of. It may actually be a good thing that Kelly made it right after Donnie Darko. If he had waited, he might get to know better.

Will Southland Tales be vindicated by history? Is it at least on its way to becoming a cult classic? I don't know. It's definitely the kind of work where either you like it or you really don't. But I requested it through the Providence Library many weeks ago, and spent most of the summer waiting. People out there are starting to pay attention to it. What kind of voodoo it will work remains to be seen.

Update: According to this interview, the budget ran to 12-15 million, fairly cheap for a studio film. Inside-industry stuff doesn't really interest me, but I could have sworn that it was somewhere in the 100 mil neighborhood, especially factoring in star salaries. Credit him for getting bang for the buck.

One for the formerly bald guy

So, in case you're David Blaine and have been practicing that fifteen days in a coffin stunt, you know that Delaware Senator Joe Biden is Barack Obama's running mate for the '08 election. To be honest, the selection doesn't overjoy me. Like much of the Democratic establishment, he has--especially in the foreign policy arena--often put looking tough ahead of making the right decision. Other guilty parties include Bob Kerrey, John Kerry, and Tom Daschle. And like all these guys, Biden has wound up failing at both tasks.

But one thing about him is that he wants this. He wants to get to Pennsylvania rather than rack up even more ungodly levels of Senate seniority. And being VP means that he'd get the top job if anything were to happen to . Incentive enough for him to go after the Republicans with everything he's got, which is what the running mate needs to do.

I still would have preferred Jim Webb, but apparently he didn't want the job. Anyway, no one asked me. Steven Moffat will pick the next Doctor and Obama's pet wonks pick the running mate. You can't be too disappointed when they don't heed your messageboard comments.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Friday Random Ten strikes again

Hm. No central theme or anything. Good music I happened to have on hand. I may rejigger things to bring some other sets of songs nearer the top, but this is a good list for today.

1. Dr. John--Let's Build a Better World
2. The Kinks--Do You Remember Walter?
3. Ladytron--Playgirl
4. The Brunettes--Her Hairagami Set
5. Talking Heads--I Zimbra
6. Sammy Davis, Jr.--Easy to Love
7. David Bowie--Cactus*
8. Dressy Bessy--Oh Mi Amour
9. LCD Soundsystem--Great Release
10. Bjork w/ Antony Hegarty--The Dull Flame of Desire

*Great Pixies cover

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Was ist dieses?

On one of my other writing projects I keep running into this glitch. The document I'm working on is saved to disc, and I add some more changes to it. Then I get an error message, and the whole thing is unsaved. I mean, it's no longer on the discette. The document changes names to something with a tilde and a bunch of numbers. I've been dealing with it by copying and pasting to a blank document and resaving. Still, it's more than a little annoying. Anyone else familiar with this/know of a solution?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Parity v. Parody

If the words "Bill O'Reilly's movie debut" don't fill you with dread, maybe this trailer will.

The way he slaps the pseudo-Michael Moore, you'd think it was a Hooter's waitress or his own penis.

Okay, I'm going out on a limb and predicting that An American Carol will suck. The question is why. Is it because they employ every B-list Hollywood conservative they could grab? (They lost Kevin Costner when his agent insisted on reading the script. Stephen Baldwin had an eye doctor's appointment.) Not exactly.

This is a matter of trying to even the scales politically at the expense of all other concerns. I call it Mallard Fillmore balance.

Mallard Fillmore, in case you haven't heard of it, is a comic strip by Indiana-based Bruce Tinsley, centered on a conservative op-ed writer who's also a duck. (Despite the title, nothing is generally made of this last part.) It's Mallard and his opinions 24/7. You'll sometimes see his editor, a straw-liberal newspaperman, and a guy with a big chin who's a straw-liberal news anchor. If Mallard has any kind of social life, it's not shown.

Now this strip was intended as a balance against "Doonesbury" "The Boondocks" and other liberal-leaning comics. The question of whether the comics pages were actually left-biased is beside the point. Some perceived it to be so, and Tinsley, for one, did something about it.

But while he looked, he didn't really learn. "Doonesbury" has what I'd call a Democratic-moderate orientation. Notably, Gary Trudeau has long included likeable conservative characters. It could be argued that BD is now the moral center of that universe. Mike Doonesbury himself became a Republican during the Gingrich revolution, although it's not clear whether he still is. The point is, there is substance to "Doonesbury" aside from liberal soapboxing. "Mallard Fillmore" adds to the right in terms of quantity, but surrenders where quality is concerned.

Another example: while 24 seems a little repetitive for my tastes, I've seen it and can say it's a decent thriller show. Its producer, Joel Surnow, went on to create The 1/2 Hour News Hour, an attempt to conservatize the format of The Daily Show. If you've heard of it, you've probably forgotten about it already.

The thing with The Daily Show is that while a lot of the talent may be liberal (founding producer Lizz Winsted was also one of the first Air America hosts) their main agenda has always been comedy. If it were a five-times-weekly political screed, it wouldn't have lasted this long in the market. Surnow's authoritarian politics had been background noise on 24, but with "1/2 Hour" he made them front and center, which didn't benefit him.

Which is not to say that politics has no place in art, or even pop-culture. But this movie seems to have little to it but scoring cheap shots at imaginary targets. (Eliminate the 4th of July? So you go to sleep on the 3rd and wake up on the 5th?) It doesn't seem like it will have much audience beside the like-minded and the polite. And people who find Trace Adkins saying "turdhead" innately hilarious.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I resolve to be more open, approachable, friendly. To see meeting new people as an adventure and act accordingly. This is difficult in the long run, because bad past experiences color future behavior. But it's down on (virtual) paper now.

Also resolve to come up with a non-boring post soon, but that's another matter.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Chillin' with the Friday Random Ten

Feeling pretty relaxed. Just paid a couple of utility bills through Western Union a few hours ago, and the weekend's on. And now, music.

1. Possum Dixon--Invisible
2. Joni Mitchell--Court and Spark
3. The Beatles--Norwegian Wood
4. Love--Live and Let Live
5. David Bowie--5:15 The Angels Have Gone
6. Sarah Vaughan--Goodnight, My Love
7. Lambert, Hendricks & Ross--Hi-Fly
8. Beck--Bottle of Blues
9. Belle & Sebastian--Don't Leave the Light On
10. Tori Amos--Putting the Damage On

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A man born for Muppets

(Hm, logging in was a little different tonight. Wonder what Blogger's up to)

This moosicle number is from the classic Muppet Show, specifically the one with Vincent Price. There are other VP/Muppet clips on Youtube that happen not to be embeddable, but they are must-sees. This show really was awesome. It wasn't a figment of my grammar school imagination.

James Taylor's lyric "They'll take your soul if you let them" takes on a different meaning in this context, don't you think?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

brf cmcs nts

Well, bad news first. Peter Milligan's take on Infinity, Inc. has bit the big one. In retrospect, it was probably destined to be short-lived. The 52 miniseries introduced these characters as well-hyped (within the 'Verse) usurpers. They were not reader favorites going in. The odds that you could change that by showing their therapy sessions were long, outside of Norway maybe. Still, it was an interesting idea, and well executed. Milligan did help his continued employment prospects by making the downer ending a cliffhanger setting up someone else's (Sean McKeever, I think) fall miniseries.

From another British M-guy of note, Grant Morrison, comes issue #3 of Final Crisis. So far it's not entirely clear if this is another of the major Universe-reshaping series, like COIE and Infinite Crisis, or if it's an eccentric side-project that Morrison can afford to do. It is good to see Shilo Norman looking all natty. There were complaints from some quarters that the story was too slow. That can't be said anymore, though. This issue has Barry Allen, zipping around very much alive. It's got a potty-mouthed Mary Marvel with her head shaved but for two pink ponytails. (So evil doesn't make everyone look cool.) And as the cover indicates, it's got Wonder Woman with tusks.

Don't say that you love me!

In all, it may be a bit of a mess, but it's a mess with color and a variety of tones.

Monday, August 11, 2008

No day at the beach. Oh wait.

Today was a state holiday, and I went on a road trip with a couple of buds to picturesque Block Island. Despite the fairly dire weather reports, it turned out to be a pleasant day. Actually, bright enough so that I kind of regretted forgetting sunscreen. My arms are a little on the red side now.

But I also got a chance to go swimming on Crescent Beach (I think that was the one). I had forgotten what swimming in the ocean is like. Namely, getting smacked around by enormous blobs of hot water. It was fun, really, and gives you a good relaxed feeling afterwards.

Anyway, I'm introducing a couple of new links. One is the perceptive, comics-minded Metamorphostuff, a fellow Peter Milligan fan. The other is Broken Mystic, a talented and poetic Muslimah blogger.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

SEX! Now that we've got your attention SEX!

As of now, more people know where John Edwards put his pecker than know where he would have sent US troops if elected. In fact, more people may know this than have a real clear concept of where George Bush has already sent them.

Is this healthy for a democracy? I don't see how it can be. It's probably unrealistic to expect that intoxicating fluff like the Hunter story not be covered at all. But the disproportionate amount of attention it's gotten is absurd. The biggest story of the election apparently involves the sex life of a man we know for a fact won't be president come January.

Larisa Alexandrovna has doubts too, related to the over-convenient nature of the story, as regards the press.

But none of this is really the issue and never has been. The Edwards story is important because it can be stretched far and wide, to cover all other background noise which an uneducated populace can easily forget when a sensational and sleazy story is before them.

Both the left and the right, as well as the mainstream media have been talking about this private matter non-stop as though it were newsworthy. Edwards is not a public official, nor is he now running for public office now. Even if he were, it is a matter for him and his wife to resolve. So why is this news? Because when he was running for public office he did not want to share his private (legal) life with you? Do you have the right to even ask? Unless there is some illegal activity going on, what right do you have to know what a public figure does privately in their bedroom if it is not used as a political "family values" tool against citizens of this nation? Did Edwards try to pass the no cheating constitutional amendment and I simply missed it? I do recall the same-sex marriage ban amendment being shoved down our throats by people who were gay or criminal deviants. But I do not recall Edwards ever demanding to know how any of us lived and loved privately, nor did he insist on enforcing his view on how we should live and love.

That whole post is worth reading.

As far as I can tell, the most interesting aspect of the story has been ignored: the possibility that it may have been manipulated behind the scenes.

Elizabeth Edwards may have an intuition as to when her husband is deceiving her. I can't credit National Enquirer reporters with the same psychic insight, especially when they haven't spent time with the candidate. Someone had to put them on this trail.

Someone may be trying to throw marbles underfoot for Barack Obama and the Democrats. Neutralizing Edwards keeps him out of the campaign, when he could have helped rally working class voters and Southerners. It may also sanitize John McCain's less-than-exemplary past as a husband in the public eye.

It could also be someone with a personal grudge. There wasn't much of a chance that Edwards would be Obama's running mate (Hillary Clinton's supporters would not have appreciated her being passed over for the distant third) but he was on the list. Now, presumably, he isn't. His chances of being appointed to a potential Obama cabinet--Secretary of Labor, say--look pretty dim too. It would be awfully petty to expose the affair to dent his career, and not exactly a kindness to his family. But human nature being what it is, somebody could have made this call.

The possibility that someone may be playing them like a row of handpuppets is something that should interest members of the media, but usually doesn't.

Friday, August 8, 2008

It's Friday, we've got a Random Ten

1. Thelonious Monk--Evidence
2. The Kinks--Johnny Thunder
3. Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross--Farmer's Market
4. LCD Soundsystem--Thrills
5. Big & Rich--Kick My Ass
6. Martha & the Vandellas--You've Been in Love Too Long
7. Midnight Oil--Dreamworld
8. Laurie Anderson--Example #22
9. Battles--Tonto
10. Storm & Stress--The 2nd Perpetuate the Beautiful

And so another list is released into the virtual wild. Small ripples will be felt on Google searches.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Have a couple of potential posts in mind, but I can't do them tonight. I actually have a chance at a decent bedtime tonight, and thereby to sort of get started tomorrow morning. Soon, though. Keep watching, if you're into that sort of thing.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Europe is just different

I like pigeons. There, I said it. Not that I'm a pigeon freak or anything, but I get a good feeling from them. Despite being birds of little brain, they seem to have a canny relationship with homo sapiens, enjoying our cities without getting too close.

Of course some places they get closer than others. This clip was taken by travelers in Venice, Italy. When in Rome, I guess.

Monday, August 4, 2008


What feels like a massive case of Spring hay fever, only it's August. I'm guessing I've loosened a few bricks on my street tonight with the sneezing and all.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Nab sinless progressive in soulless world!!!

If you're a politician, and you have enough big rallies to get somewhere, it's inevitable. No matter how good a conservative you are, no matter how strongly you support the Defense of Marriage Act, you will at some point shake hands with a guy who's fisted another guy.

Similarly, if you want to build any kind of lasting social movement, if you want to advance goals related to environmental sanity and economic justice, you need to deal with the young people. Them with their Myspace and Facebook and flavored cell phones and skateboarder drinks. You can think to yourself how trivial and pointless their ways are, but you still have to get your hands dirty.

That's why it's amusing to me that an influential left-wing magazine like Adbusters is running a cover story that amounts to a prolonged "You lousy kids get off my lawn!" Even more rich is the fact that the author--if his photo in the print edition is any indication--is a good deal younger than I am. Not that I don't have friends in the "Kids today" stage of their lives.

The exposé runs into some problems.

Ever since the Allies bombed the Axis into submission, Western civilization has had a succession of counter-culture movements that have energetically challenged the status quo. Each successive decade of the post-war era has seen it smash social standards, riot and fight to revolutionize every aspect of music, art, government and civil society.

But after punk was plasticized and hip hop lost its impetus for social change, all of the formerly dominant streams of “counter-culture” have merged together. Now, one mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior has come to define the generally indefinable idea of the “Hipster.”

An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the “hipster” – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.

And yet...

Standing outside an art-party next to a neat row of locked-up fixed-gear bikes, I come across a couple girls who exemplify hipster homogeneity. I ask one of the girls if her being at an art party and wearing fake eyeglasses, leggings and a flannel shirt makes her a hipster.

“I’m not comfortable with that term,” she replies.

Her friend adds, with just a flicker of menace in her eyes, “Yeah, I don’t know, you shouldn’t use that word, it’s just…”


“No… it’s just, well… if you don’t know why then you just shouldn’t even use it.”

“Ok, so what are you girls doing tonight after this party?”

“Ummm… We’re going to the after-party.”

You're way ahead of me. Even though the "hipster" subculture has supposedly swallowed everything in its path, the author has little luck finding anyone who actually identifies as a hipster. It's only the label he imposes on them, just as Rush Limbaugh will always find reasons to call Brian Williams a liberal.

Note also that the article follows big city (Vancouver?) youth through late night partying and clubbing. In this context, it would be an uncomfortable surprise not to find some shallow and obnoxious behavior. Which means that you'll find shallow and obnoxious people, and you'll see more of them if your own criteria are somewhat superficial.

The point here is not to mock Douglas Maddow, whose byline is on the article. But to reiterate, he appears to be quite young himself. I know that when I was in college, I wrote a lot of papers which--looking back on it--were somewhat weak in the analysis department. It's best not to cling too tightly to the conclusions you draw early in life. And it's unwise to throw the first stone at other silly people in the early phases of their own.

8/1 Friday Random Ten: Feel the tension

Or maybe I'm just picking up on more of it 'cuz of where my head's at.

1. Pink Floyd--The Scarecrow
(admittedly an exception)
2. Elvis Costello & the Attractions--Pretty Words
3. Neko Case--The Needle Has Landed
4. Eurythmics--Somebody Told Me
5. Midnight Oil--Beds Are Burning
6. Bonzo Dog Band--My Pink Half of the Drainpipe
7. The Fiery Furnaces--Straight Street
8. Milt Jackson--Misterioso
9. Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention--How Could I Be Such a Fool*
10. Dressy Bessy--Maybe Laughter

*The original gangsta "Freak Out!" version