Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A special good night

I've been hearing from a coworker of mine who complains that with all that's going on in the world today, the thing the media is hung up on is Michael Jackson. It sounds reasonable enough on the surface, but given the source I wasn't too surprised to find out that it was a right-wing talking point. It's keeping the Iranian drive for democracy down? Whatever, I say. Apparently nothing good can happen in the world until all Americans clap their hands and say they believe.

As for MJ himself, it is sad, yes. But in a way it was a long time coming. The surgeries had increasingly made him look like the Jeff Koons sculpture of him. He took both his person and his music out of contact with the world. This may be necessary for the artist up to a point, but there's a point beyond that.

Anyway, on a brighter note, I tracked down my favorite skit from Monty Python's Flying Circus. With a Portuguese lesson, to boot!

Of course those priceless Cleese expressions transcend language.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Adventures in retrolesbomodernism

Been letting the blog slide a little. Partly because of the thumb, which is an annoying distraction. Right now I have (ICK ALERT) a flap of loose skin hanging on the tip, raw dermis underneath. So I should have a fully functional opposeable thumb soon.

Just doing a quick comics post now. Today I picked up a copy of Detective Comics #854. This was the first issue to feature Batwoman as the lead character, while Bruce Wayne is majorly in absentia as Batman. There was basically one factor determining my purchase. The character of Batwoman (a gritty update of a Silver Age femme) hadn't made much of an impression on me. Writer Greg Rucka has always struck me as okay/middling, and reading one of his novels hadn't helped my opinion.*

Then there's the artist. JH Williams III may have a name that smacks of mediocre political appointee, but he's one of the true artists in mainstream comics today. His work shows the influence of predecessors like Gil Kane and Neal Adams, but he has also absorbed lessons from classic illustrations and fine art. He was about as much of a selling point on Promethea and Seven Soldiers as their celebrated writers. Which is a roundabout way of saying that at least there was a guarantee of pretty pictures.

It's better than that, though. Rucka has upped his game. There's no half-assed attempt at realism here. Kate Kane's world is dramatic, expressionist, and not afraid of its own silliness. In place of Alfred she has her father, an old soldier who's never taken off his uniform and could work as Aldo Ray's double. And Batwoman is a wonder at work, scary and seductive. Williams is key here. In his hands the character is not just hot in the J-cups and wasp waist way. She's achingly beautiful. And that spills over into the civilian scenes as well. A lunch with a new girlfriend goes badly. It's an obvious irony--Kate has to put on basically the same spoiled playboy act as Bruce Wayne--but it's poignant in its presentation.

The weak point is plot. No one can, or at least usually does, tell a story in fifteen pages anymore. So it's basically just shake up a witness, talk to Dick Grayson as Batman, and track down a(nother) freaky Lewis-Carroll-themed villain who doesn't get a chance to do anything. But it's fun to read nonetheless.

The Question back-up--featuring Batwoman's ex--only has about seven pages to get started. It essentially establishes that there are a lot of tough, mean Hispanics out there. It too has good art from Cully Hamner, though. And it's nice to see that Renee Montoya is making Web 2.0 pay.

*If you crave unlikeable cardboard heroes facing off against ridiculous cardboard villains, Smoker will be a treat.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pop goes

Andy Warhol is known to have said, "Pop art is liking things." And I am all in favor of liking things. Okay, that sounds like the blandest sentiment in history. But it takes commitment to remain easygoing. For instance, typing all ten letters of the word "commitment" without wandering off. You think that's easy?

Anyway, I'd like to welcome The Booberry Alarm Clock to the blogroll. It's a poppy blog, with one of the best names I've heard on the 'net. There's also an awesome and somewhat frightening collection of '70's gum wrappers.

The picture below--a silkscreen--is by Matthew Brannon, who's still young and seems to like a lot of stuff. His stuff looks simple, but there's a twist if you look again. Anyway, it seemed to fit.

Monday, June 22, 2009

President's pocket protector pal

I thought this was worth looking at. John Hodgman, best known for playing Brand X in Apple's Get a Mac ads, addressing the Radio and TV Correspondents dinner.

Certainly there's some geeky genius schtick going on here, but Hodgman is also a pretty cogent arguer. The concept of God as a "cold and distant Dungeonmaster" is the best explication I've heard of Jefferson et al's deism, at least for those familiar with D&D.

Believe it or not I never knew about the Superman statue in Metropolis, Illinois. Guess that's why Sufjan Stevens put that song about Superman on his Illinois-themed album when Supes was created in Cleveland, Ohio. (Yes, I quite frequestly scare myself.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Let's make a deal

I've written before about Southland Tales, a movie I'll champion any day of the week. Sony should probably think about leasing it out for midnight shows at least. With Fringe offering both parallel universes and straight-faced absurdity to a willing public, maybe some more groundwork has been done.

Anyway, director Richard Kelly is talking about his yet unreleased movie The Box, which I think is supposed to be out in the fall. What can I say? I hope it's good, and it should be of interest. Richard Matheson wrote some spooky stories, only a few of which made it onto The Twilight Zone. This one was adapted on the 80's version, but I'm curious to see how it plays out at feature length.

Also I hear there are a lot of seventies cars in it. Gremlin fans take note.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bumbling henchmen

Over the weekend I developed this nasty steak-mold-green abscss under a thumbnail. Today it got intolerable so I went to the ER and a nice PA lanced it. Right now the thumb is wrapped up in this blue rubber turban. So I can't write much, really.

But I thought this Juan Cole post from over the weekend was worth looking at. It's a list of suspicious stuff about the big-show election in Iran. Notable:

1. It is claimed that Ahmadinejad won the city of Tabriz with 57%. His main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is an Azeri from Azerbaijan province, of which Tabriz is the capital. Mousavi, according to such polls as exist in Iran and widespread anecdotal evidence, did better in cities and is popular in Azerbaijan. Certainly, his rallies there were very well attended. So for an Azeri urban center to go so heavily for Ahmadinejad just makes no sense. In past elections, Azeris voted disproportionately for even minor presidential candidates who hailed from that province.

Ahmedinejad should have hired James Baker as his campaign chair. He knows how to do this stuff.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Still looking for a logo

Well, she's got a running feud now with someone in the media. So the brand-building continues apace.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

At the end

We want to believe that age brings wisdom, some sense of how everything fits together. Or failing that, equanimity, grace. Maybe just mellowness.

Beyond the guard who was killed too young and for no good reason, that's the nastiest shock in the Holocaust Museum Shooting. James von Brunn has lived 88 years. He's seen the horrors of war and probably some acts of heroism that transcend it. He's lived through Depression before and seen the country rebound from it. And from his life's experiences, all he's taken away is a list of targets.

Age can bring wisdom, of course. But finding it takes effort, and it requires you to reach out. The attacker of the Holocaust Museum is a worst case scemario of the kind of ingrown hate that can result from the failure to do that.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What indeed?

I just learned about this song recently.

As the graphic on this not-quite-video clip shows, there does seem to be some Syd Barrett/early Floyd influence. John never flipped for real the way Syd did, but there must have been times he felt like he was.

This song was apparently dropped from the White Album at the last minute. My guess is that he pushed his vote to the limit getting "Revolution 9" on and couldn't swing this one as well. Did they make the right call? I could see an argument either way.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Defenses natural and otherwise

This is an excerpt from Sue Savage Rumbaugh's Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind. I've just started reading the book and already it's proven inpirational.

This book really began the day the first joint of my right index finger was severed by an ape I didn't even see. Up from the bowels of a dimly lit cage she raged and parted me from the first joint of my finger. Wsa she angry at me? She didn't even know me, nor I her. I had just come to the Oklahoma "Chimp Farm" to learn about the signing apes, the ones that were supposed to talk to you with their hands. Little did I know that most adult chimps living in social groups are not kindly disposed to strangers, viewing them as something of a thread to be dealt with immediately. This was long before Jane Goodall had learned that apes kill members of other groups in the wild.
I had begun to study apes only a few months before this bite, but already, within three days of meeting them, I knew that the rest of my life would be spent studying apes. So like us they are, and yet so distinctly different in some ways.

Most of us like to think we have persistence, that we keep goals in sight when there are obstacles in the way. I know I'd like to think this. Based on personal experience, however, a bad turnaround is enough to shut us down. So hearing about a woman who commits to a career direction at the exact same moment that it costs her a digit, well, that definitely puts things in perspective. (She doesn't say whether the finger joint was reattached, but either way it would send most people screaming in the other direction.)

There's also a story of her being surrounded by wild dogs in a Portuguese forest. As she realizes she's being hunted, and there's no help within screaming distance, she takes a rock and chucks it at one of the dogs. It hits and she raises another rock to show them she can do it again. The pack retreats. There's a lesson here for those who aren't accustomed to being aggressive.

I know I've said this before, but I think I'll be talking more about this book.

Friday, June 5, 2009


Again I have to skip Friday Random Ten. Well, I am skipping it because after Apple's most recent brilliant update I can't sync iTunes to the iPod. I will lick this thing but I'm not sure how yet.

Wait, that needs an "as God is my witness" doesn't it?

Thursday, June 4, 2009


As nouveau portmanteau terms go, I kind of doubt that "funemplyment" will have legs as long as "funderage drinking."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New old stuff

I guess this performance is about 20yo now, but it still seems pretty fresh. Brian Eno used to pimp these guys back in the day, and I can kind of see why.

No I don't know why she went on stage wearing 3-4 dresses. But I commend the audience for not hitting her with the tired "take it off" catcalls.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cranky Hanky

:It will not be a happy trip.:

Monday's Benjamen Walker program on WFMU features an interview concerning Golden Age comic book artist Fletcher Hanks, no relation to Tom as far as I know. He is an interesting character to study, for a couple of reasons.

For one thing, he was born in 1879. If you do the math, that means that when he was writing and drawing the adventures of Stardust and Phantoma--among others--he was around the start of his sixties. Now there is an honored class of oldster comic book artists: John Byrne, Frank Miller, and Richard Corben, in the mainstream comics. In the late thirties/early forties, comics were a young man's game. A game for young men who could live on almost no money. This was because it was a brand new medium. The only other comics artist of note who was in late middle age was Wonder Woman co-creator Harry G. Peter, who had considerably more history as an illustrator than did Hanks.

Hanks is also fascinating in the crossed frameworks of art and pathology. To put it plainly he was a nasty piece of work. In his private life, we know that he committed some vicious acts of child abuse against son Fletcher Jr., and his wife probably got the same or worse. In his stories, villains are established as evil so that the hero can spend a goodly amount of time killing and torturing them. It's ctuel and crude. What it isn't is calculated. While he was a fairly rough artist, you see occasional flashes of visual brilliance. You also see the id at work on the page, unconscious of how it looks.

Then you'll probably need a stiff drink.