Friday, August 31, 2007

I've been hoping to stop just writing about comics, but waiting to see a movie to give me something else to write about. Today my roommate's girlfriend came down from Seattle, bearing an Animal Collective ticket I gave her money for, and also two movies from Hollywood Video. These were watched in rapid succession, which you may remember me complaining about.

The first was Blades of Glory, which I'm sure will fade from memory quickly. Pretty much exactly what I expected in terms of not being as funny as a movie directed by Adam McKay, but still having a fairly good cast, besides the people I don't care about because the things they were in that were popular, I dislike. This, for those of you who don't remember, is the movie about ice skating with Will Ferrell, who's great, and the guy from Napoleon Dynamite, who's awful. I do know his name, but I'm deliberately not saying it, because he's awful. Amy Poehler, Andy Richter, and Jenna Fischer contribute to my feelings of goodwill.

Next up was Zodiac, which I actually actively wanted to see when it came out. I feel like the more time that passes, the more David Fincher movies get dismissed, but maybe that's just the crowd I run with shifting. Anyway, this was a movie that worked. It didn't fuck around with any ridiculous CGI or flashiness, and I don't think it'll appeal to anyone's youthful anger. It is long, but probably as long as it had to be.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Calvin And Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book is the one Calvin And Hobbes book I have in my possession. I have all of them, at home in New Jersey, but after they got water-damaged, my mom bought a new copy of that book and sent it out here. That's the one with all the commentary about character names and the comic strip business and licensing and stuff. It's pretty great. There are two bits of commentary I want to write about. The first is when Watterson notes how all the great strips are out of print, and that modern work would probably be better if there were more historic documentation. The line is that each new generation of strip artists has to "reinvent the wheel."

This was written over ten years ago. Starting as of a couple years ago, old comics are starting to be reprinted in really complete form- The Krazy and Ignatz books, the Peanuts books, and Pogo is going to start coming out this year. All in complete form. These strips were the ones Watterson cited as major influences. But there's also all sorts of more obscure stuff coming out, thanks in part to that awesome Art Out Of Time book, and also due to the success of this stuff. So there's Gene Deitch and Jack Cole comic strips being reprinted.

There's also a bit where Watterson says that he thinks that, after so many comic strips about young boys drawn by men, he thinks a strip about a little girl, drawn by a woman, could be great. This is also interesting to me due to an interview I read with either Eleanor Davis or Andrice Arp, where they said that at the time they started going to comics classes at the Savannah College for Art and Design, they were the only woman in the class, but by the time they were seniors, things were more equal.

Right now, there's the Megan Kelso comic, Watergate Sue, being serialized in the New York Times, but that's not exactly what I'm talking about. I just think it's worth noting as a parallel. Megan Kelso went to Evergreen in the early nineties. I think some of the stuff that was printed in her Queen Of The Black Black was pretty cool, but the stuff in her second book showcases a leap in style and pacing to a place I can no longer understand, where indefinite periods of time pass between panels. Some people can parse the flayed minimalism and find great emotional moments, good for them.

This thought process was began just in general by my thinking about, as I waited for the bus, that 2008 will probably have a lot of great "graphic novels" coming out, as 2007 has been dominated by reprints of older work, next year will see more contemporary stuff being finished and collected. I'm thinking specifically of Anders Nilsen's Big Questions and Paul Pope's THB, but certainly the promise of collections of Cold Heat, Scud The Disposable Assassin, and Dal-Tokyo fit into this trend. So too would a theoretical collection of Megan Kelso's Artichoke Tales, but I neither know nor care if that will happen. Scud was supposed to come out this year, but I don't know if it was finished drawing before the creator, Rob Schrab, went back to directing The Sarah Silverman Program. It seems possible that it will be out before the end of the year, but I don't know. That would be a good one to read on the plane travelling in one direction or another for the holidays.

When "Watergate Sue" stops running in the Times, a new Daniel Clowes thing will start to come out, which I think will wrap up early in 2008. If that were to be collected into an issue of Eightball next year, that would also be great.
Weird- Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast from The Sound Of Young America, where the chorus of the Rihanna song "Umbrella" was likened to The Cranberries, and now I find that three weeks ago, Paper Rad posted a video on Youtube about just this very concept.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

So a while ago, my camera started working again. For a long time, the eject button would not eject the cassettes within it. The digital video tape inside it was a recording I got Alex Tripp to do of me doing my version of "the aristocrats," for submission to the movie's DVD. It turned out there was a ten-minute time limit and so it was never submitted, but it was really weird to see something a little over a year old and so clearly coming from a different place, in terms of obscenity. I know that obscenity was the nature of the exercise and I just haven't had a reason to do that type of thing since then. But it was weird.

Just now, I looked over the beginnings of a screenplay, called "Cough Syrup" which I had started to write before that video was made.

Both of these were also done before I'd made any movie, including the cartoons for Animated Visions, I think.

Anyway, what exists of that screenplay- I think parts of it are funny, but on the whole, also way crasser than what my mind comes up with now. It's like there was some horrible tension that was just relieved that I wasn't even aware of. Getting older? Being on the west coast too long?

That said, tonight I was talking to my roommates about my new job, which I haven't blogged about. I work as a server at a retirement home. It's not that bad, my bosses seem alright, although my coworkers are weird. I thought they were all teenage girls, but I think they might actually be my age and go to the community college. I think my idea of age might be skewed by the people I hang out with? You know, you meet someone dumb, you think they're younger to give them the benefit of the doubt. These people aren't necessarily dumber, they just don't do the thing I and all my friends do. Anyway, they are all female, and I do imagine at some point an old man seeing me, the one male working this job, and calling me a faggot.

This then led to me imagining being verbally abused by an old man. "Bring me my Jell-O, faggot. Bet you'd like it if I used your mouth for a colostomy bag. Get me some cottage cheese or you'll be sucking on my prolapsed rectum like it was a dick." This is deeply crass, and I write it down for the sake of my own memory, as the actual things I work on that take more time are not as crass as that which I throw out to my roommates on the front stoop as they smoke cigarettes.

Note: I really like what exists of that unfinished screenplay and should be writing more for it, even though my thoughts are so seemingly tonally divergent now.

Maybe it's because I listen to The Best Show On WFMU so much, and that show's so clean?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

If you are going to have a beard, you should be at least kind of David Berman.

"American Water" is so good.

Right now I am in a place where things are happening, in and around my life, big things, but let's wait for them to sort themselves out, so they are not being discussed perpetually, with real-time blogging. Let's keep on filling the void of content this way, for as long as we can.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Complaints about this new house:

The first one that comes to mind right now is scented candles. The one burning right now smells like a cooking sausage, and not in a good way. More like a hot dog. I went to blow it out and found it in some kind of metal cage and that it's not a candle so much as a small short pool of wax?

But last night I would've mentioned tarot cards. One roommate, who as of a week ago, didn't know how to read tarot cards, was reading those of another.

Also having arguments with people where you know they are wrong but they refuse to acknowledge the possiblility of their being wrong, due to misremembered information to substantiate their belief. You are correct if you guessed that this happens with the person what reads the tarot cards.

Filth, of a way grosser kind than the kind Alex created.

Hardwood floors in the bedroom- This leads to dirt on the floor that then becomes dirt on your feet that then becomes dirt in your bed. Awful.

That I'm sleeping on a double-size futon in a twin frame, and it is becoming abundantly clear how shitty this is for my back and is really becoming worse and worse. I have to do something about this.

Occasional terrible music, and the related decent music presented in an awful context- too loud for the type of music it is and sung along with poorly.

Watching TV shows on DVD by just pressing play all on the main menu screen, rather than "select episode" and then having three hours of TV play, sometimes to an empty room, or as someone falls asleep on the couch. Related to this is the watching of movies that have already been viewed multiple times, this weird TV as a presence exporting vague comforts thing. I like watching movies and TV too, but I watch it in a completely different way. Wet Hot American Summer has been watched, by the same person, three times since I moved in on July first, and it's been watched so many times by this person that it no longer provokes laughter. I am probably being a snob when I think of this as being weird.

Four out of my five roommates are fine on a personal interaction level. No one is awesome enough to make their bullshit charming- especially because in the case of the filth, it's a thing that's just denied. There's a lot of stuff that's just tics- all this garbage around here. Hopefully when two of them move out at the beginning of September- (no definite dates) that shit will be gone or will be thrown out in a big purge. Sorry, Beatles photo in the front hallway, you invoke my rage at cliched imagery. No apologies to you, multi-colored plastic bead curtain hanging on a wall, you just look like shit.

Again, the charm of the place is the fact that the landlord just leaves us alone and we can do whatever with the rooms in terms of painting. I kind of want to go crazy with this and glue a bunch of upturned cans to the floor, for the way the concave bottoms will reflect light. If I do this in my room, I also like the idea of sawing off the bottom of the door to better accomodate the new higher floor. Oh, yes, and the rent is low. These things should encourage awesomeness, but there's just this weird mire of mediocrity, which I'm capable of rising above, as is everyone else who lives here, probably, but no one's really encouraged to do so, because of how all-consuming the mire is.

I have a job interview tomorrow and even though I woke up relatively early it was not early enough for me to be tired at a reasonable hour.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I've been trying to read more genre fiction. Crime stuff, specifically. I'm writing these books where nothing's happening and I need to be reminded of how people write books with plots and forward movement. I will probably be off the crime kick soon. I know people who like this stuff, my friends Jason Sheridan and Loren Thor both have read the old stuff that was adapted into film noir. I'm reading, right now, Raymond Chandler's The Little Sister, but before that I was reading a more contemporary book, Drama City, by George Pelecanos, due to my fondness for The Wire, which he writes for. I'd already heard that the best thing about Chandler isn't the mysteries but the rants about Los Angeles, and this is considered his best novel, and on the inside cover of the Library Of America collection I have, it states that it has the most of that stuff than any of this other work. The book has The Long Goodbye in it as well, and as much as I liked the Robert Altman movie with Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe, I don't think I'll be able to muster the energy. It's maybe worth noting that for my stated goals, Chandler is pretty hard to follow plot-wise. But he's great philosophy-wise, respectable for his point of view. The rants about Los Angeles give power to his essays that are reprinted that take as a given that the person writing them is not a hack, despite that being the sea he swims in- He writes essays on mystery stories, and screenplays, and both are considered a hard road to hoe for the way that quality is drowned out by the white noise of other people's bad work and established formula.

I'm kind of over the idea, now, but they've got this stuff at the library and it's a whole in my education. Richard Price writes for The Wire, Dashiell Hammett precedes Chandler and Jim Thompson follows him. Mostly it seems like I'd rather read the stuff I tend to read, but I'm actually finishing these books, whereas Against The Day just kind of sits in front of a stereo speaker, with me three hundred pages into it.

The other book I got from the library on my last trip was the adaptation of Paul Auster's City Of Glass into a comic by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli, which I think some people think is a superior work to the original novel due to its thematic concerns about something beyond language, but right now at three AM is striking me as not particularly memorable or impressive. It's good though. I read a thing making fun of Paul Auster a few days that was pretty legitimate. It was making fun of various "literary" types of writers by- wait hold on, I'll just find the link.

Here it is. I agreed with a lot of it. I think Don DeLillo is a pretty good writer, especially for Underworld, but every criticism of White Noise the author posits I thought about while I was reading it, and the teachers I've had who've put forth the idea that it's a "funny" book don't know from funny. I don't have the problem with the talk about vague looming important things, that seems a legitimate reporting of thought.

But I was talking about Paul Auster, it points out that his writing which gets called spare and minimalist is actually repetitive. This stops being an issue when it gets adapted into a comic, and a lot of the excess narration is removed. I liked bits of Moon Palace, though, and overall disagree completely with the conclusions that B.R. Myers reaches. Writers have tics, sometimes those are flaws, and surely no one should be beyond criticism, but Don DeLillo is actually a pretty fucking great writer, despite being bad at plots. I don't remember what Underworld was about, but I can't follow the plot in The Little Sister either, but both are satisfying on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Yeah, I don't know, I keep on thinking that maybe plots don't matter. The overall thrust of by Thomas Pynchon's V. leads to a place that's not nearly as satisfying and memorable as the scene of an operation of a nose that the surgeon narrates in song. My favorite Vonnegut books are the ones where plots are the closest to barely existing. Nothing really happens throughout Something Happened.

I'll take this moment to recommend yet again Salvador Plascencia's The People Of Paper, that book is fucking great. And it has a plot.

The next genre excursion should be into science fiction. John Samson reads a lot of it, Brian Chippendale says that all of Jodorowsky's stuff is an overt rip-off of Dune, which makes me reconsider my previous dismissal of it as being too nerdy. I should read more Philip K. Dick besides VALIS, because VALIS was fucking amazing. Salvador Plascencia said in an interview that the fantastic stuff in The People Of Paper should be taken like people take fantastic stuff in science fiction, and not just as metaphors. I think he was referring specifically to the mechanical turtles. That's how I read all of that anyway, to me that type of thing is so common to me that I can't imagine doing anything else, and really I just think I should just embrace that stuff more, because it just makes so much sense to me.

Oh man, I wonder how much this upswing in blogging activity has to do with not really having anyone to talk to about music and stuff? Fuck man. I don't want to keep on going on about Brian Chippendale but I do want to have a discussion with someone about whether Ride The Skies is better than Wonderful Rainbow, because I kind of think it might be. I'm making a mix CD now, really shortly after having just made one, I think for the sake of that kind of dialogue, and "oh boy what a great song." Methods of communication. I think what I'm trying to get across in this one is an argument for technology-powered ritual and wildness. "Hey Light" by Animal Collective shows up early, it ends with Silver Apples, the Ween song "Molly" is in there, so's Dan Deacon. That's kind of what I think that living in Olympia should be like, due to the abundance of nature- I want more ritual music and less coffeehouse poetry set to chords. So that's the argument this mix is making. The last mix I made was trying to say stuff too. It is much easier to make mixes to say things than writing novels, because I'm trying to say smaller things. It's even easier to cook meals and food, and I like the small thing that says when I give food to people. I would make that argument in a book but Raymond Carver already did. I invited you, readers of my blog, over for pancakes last week, right? The offer still stands.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I have two Ween records, but I feel they are the wrong ones to have. I have Chocolate And Cheese and The Mollusk, and they're both kind of awesome. I think Chocolate And Cheese is overproduced and too slick, but that's not why I think it's a wrong one to have.

I first heard of Ween by way of my brother, and I liked them for that goofy obscene thing that a nerd will like a band for in middle school. They Might Be Giants were my favorite band, I couldn't own Ween records due to my parent's strictness about Parental Advisory labels. I bought Chocolate and Cheese when I moved out, actually, one of the first things I did. The whole sticker wasn't much of an issue, in general- Independent labels avoided it completely, and I'd bought The Flaming Lips' Hit To Death In The Future Head and just kind of thought "fuck it, who cares" but that was when I was in high school, not middle school. (That album, by the way, is the best Flaming Lips record)

But I've been listening to Pure Guava and The Pod. When I helped Laura move, she told me she'd been listening to Pure Guava, "only the sad songs" and then explained that she meant sad in sound, not in lyrics, because the lyrics are uniformly goofy. What's weird is that after this was pointed out, I realized that almost all of the songs on that record sound sad, except for "Pumping For The Man." But it's a particular vibe those records have going on. Both were, if my memory serves, from the time when I was on Ween websites a lot, reading about them because I couldn't actually listen to their records straight-through, recording in a place nicknamed the Pod, where the two dudes lived with each other, getting really high and making music on the four-track. The actual album The Pod is considered a classic by Ween fans, but I think that's actually true for most of them and so is maybe meaningless. Anyway- what I realized is that The Pod and Pure Guava are what the band IS, whereas the stuff I own (and the country record that was released between them), is what the band DOES. The Pod and Pure Guava are kind of dark and claustrophic and really high. The lyrics are frequently nonsense, but they're mostly obscured by various tape effects. There's still some bad songs on the Pod- "Sketches Of Winkle" is a pretty bad metal goof, and "Captain Fantasy" is the same, albeit differently, but I can listen to Pure Guava pretty much front to back. It gets the hairiest with "Mourning Glory" which is pretty much noise with some rambling. After that, with better production, the song not-parodies, homages-with-goofy-lyrics shine through clearer, with less smoke haze, and maybe less sadness behind the haze. The Pod has the cover that's a parody of a Leonard Cohen best-of, shot in black and white but with a mask which I've alternately heard is for huffing Scotch Gard and is a Nitrous-Oxide powered Bong (which supposedly gets you high for days, but in a way where you feel sick throughout, although that seems weird considering the short term effects of Nitrous Oxide), and that's actually a pretty good way of describing what the record is: sad-bastard songs, all fucked up.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I find those "Best American" anthologies that Houghton Mifflin puts out kind of interesting. They first caught my attention with the "nonrequired" series, all edited by Dave Eggers, sporting celebrity introductions and cartoonist-drawn covers. This was in high school, eventually I came across the more specialized ones- "Best American Travel Writing" or whatever. Last year there was a "Best American Comics" for the first time ever, guest-edited by Harvey Pekar- who's awful. Tom Scharpling and Paul F. Tompkins making fun of that guy on The Best Show on WFMU made me laugh so hard my face hurt- they talk about how boring the stories he tells are, and then Paul F. Tompkins realizes- "I just remembered he doesn't even draw them! He gets other people to draw them- If comics are this perfect blend of story and art, he has neither!" But what was weird to me was a book labeled 2006 on it had a lot of stuff in it from the Chris Ware-edited issue of McSweeney's, which came out in 2004.

Today I saw a thing from the upcoming editors of the 2008 and 2009 books saying that the stuff was due for the 2008 book shortly- each volume comes out in the fall, (for Holiday purchase) with the label of the year of its release, but contains things from the past two years- one year's worth, split down the middle, essentially. So the 2007 books coming out will contain stuff that people who were more on the ball read in 2005 and 2006.

The 2007 Best American Comics book is edited by Chris Ware, which means it's easy to view it as a sequel to the McSweeney's. But I looked at the contributor list today, and it's really weird, in a great way. I'd heard that Kevin Huizenga and CF were both going to be in it. I saw that it's also going to have Gary Panter and Paper Rad in it. I have no idea what the Panter will be- maybe one of the minicomics, he sells on his website? but it's the Paper Rad thing that made me laugh hysterically. Because this is a book with crossover appeal, theoretically appealing to people who like the idea of "graphic novels" as literature. Paper Rad comics are pretty much the opposite of Chris Ware in tone, drawing, and point of view. When thinking about Paper Rad comics to be printed in the timespan the Ware book is going to cover, I remembered their piece "Kramers Ergot: Fuck You" starring characters from Seinfeld drawing comics about Bill Callahan of Smog whipping out his giant dick a la Boogie Nights before playing a show. I also thought about the piece Ben Jones did for the 2005 Small Press Expo anthology where Bart Simpson draws a comic that makes fun of Chris Ware that causes people to melt when they read it, and Bart then strips nude and slops the goo caused by the melting onto himself. I actually think the latter is the most likely to be anthologized because it contextualizes itself fairly understandably and Matt Groening won't sue. That comic's awesome. The idea of it being bought by old people, or even the middle-aged, is nonetheless mindblowing. The CF comic running is a reprint of a minicomic that was in itself an excerpt of a longer book being published this fall called Powr Mastrs that I'm really looking forward to. The cover, by David Heatley, depicts a pile of comics, with an original Heatley comic strip on the top of the pile but underneath it sit a bunch of covers that are all vaguely recognizable to me but the only one I can state with certainty is a copy of The Ganzfeld 4.

Both the Ware book and the Pekar one preceding it contain comics. I assume the Pekar one had a monologue sketchbook comic, one of which appeared in an Eggers Nonrequired Reading. Maybe the Ware book will have an excerpt from Big Questions? Although the idea of him running a monologue-sketchbook comic- man, that would be a big "fuck you" to most readers, in a way that would be pretty amusing to me. Not like my point is "Chris Ware is so punk." I just find it interesting, that while the idea that a popular figure's interests should be presented to the public is a sensible one, most figures whose works are of quality are into a lot of deeper, almost-esoteric work. Certainly if you're at the top of your game, you're not going to be interested in people who are doing watered-down versions of what you're doing, and if you understand your medium, there's a lot there. I also think it's interesting that David Lynch is really into classic Hollywood cinema, citing Sunset Boulevard as an all-time favorite. And, you know, Sunset Boulevard's great.
Last night brought me to downtown Olympia to see my friend Sam Adams off to Estonia for a year. Downtown was a strange place last night, with a Girls Gone Wild bus parked in front of a bar, on a block that counted five bars to it. There were protestors in the street and in the myriad bars, not with placards, just talking rhetoric about exploitation of women, and sometimes getting distracted to look at asses, if my understanding serves me correctly. They were crust punk types. One gave a speech and tried to give me a sheet of paper outlining his beliefs, and I said "Why should I take this if I already agree with your beliefs?"

He paused, and then said "Alright. How's your Playstation treating you?"

I said "I don't have a Playstation, but thanks for being condescending just because I don't want to placate you."

He then apologized and thanked me for calling him on it. Annoying.

We ended up away from there, in a bar with people I knew in it, but in a way that made me uncomfortable for their presentation- One person I hadn't seen in awhile, but at one point had a class with, and now had a haircut that spoke of professionalism and class. This is someone who I once talked to when drunk and she was spouting ironic antisemitism. I brought this up, and she said she didn't do that anymore. Her whole table had this distinct "girls night out" vibe, the feeling that everyone at it had their own distinct things going on in their lives, but this was something apart from all of it.

Meanwhile I was with Sam Adams, for whom a night out carousing at bars with friends seems very much of a continuity with the rest of his life. I never get an awkward feeling from that guy. The crazy people are a constant source of amusement, but he's not above them, he's able to keep them in line. He's a popular fellow, and will be missed, and I'm sure he will be fine in Estonia, because I am convinced he can be at home anywhere.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I said something to my roommate that I like the least a few weeks ago, which was surprising to me as I said it, but seems real enough to repeat now, for posterity. She was painting a picture and talking about how she doesn't know how to play an instrument, but wants to learn how, so she can play music. I say to her "Why? Music is hard. Like, I understand the punk rock idea of anyone can make music, but- you already have an artistic outlet, you paint. There's too many bands as it is. Instruments are expensive." Music is just one of those things that's really appealing to a certain age of people- The idea of wanting to be in a band is as common to teenagers as the idea of writing a novel someday is to forty-year-olds. I'm talking about myself as much as I was talking to her- I can't play music, and I can't draw, and I like music and comics, but I can write prose and I can make movies, and can articulate my emotions as well through that as anyone can expect to through music- Certainly, a lot of the people I know who play music might not be interested in that art-making element to it, so much as the idea of "playing" for the sake of fun, and ritual catharsis, which is valid, and its own thing, but that requires a decent amount of skill that some people will just not be able to get to even after shitloads of practice. You need to be fluent in a language to articulate how you feel in it, and most people will never be that fluent in drumming or guitar. Most people aren't even fluent enough in English to write about things, and that's their native language.

Note: I mostly only said this to her because I think she's dumb and doesn't have anything to say in any language and so I don't mind dream-crushing. But I've heard enough terrible music to think that maybe the idea that being a painter or a writer or a seamstress or whateverthefuck is just as valid as making music, and you should just go with your skillset and what you excell at or what makes you happy, rather than your ideas of what's fashionable and social within your subculture. This isn't meant to dissuade genuine outsider artists, just bandwagon-hopping scenester flies.
When I look at my iTunes playlist for all the music to come out in the year 2007, I try to start to group it all by sets of trends, and act like the conclusions I reach have more to do with music being produced this year than my personal tastes. I view certain sounds as signifying cultural trends, rather than small subcultural scenes- a few years ago I was thinking that all of the aughts would be defined by these cyborg sounds of the electronic and organic coexisting, either as a utopian dream or as a war breaking out.

So No Age and Deerhunter are droney rock bands with poppy, almost surf beats behind them. The new Liars record is like this as well. This doesn't mean anything. I like the new Magik Markers record- That's got songs on it, rather than the noise jams they made in the past that bored me when I caught the tail end of their set opening for Sonic Youth- The singer shouted "Do something!" and a crowd that had no reason to do so, because there was nothing outside of that shout that would encourage it. I kind of think that Magik Markers are dumb, based on that and the quote from the frontwoman found in The Believer music issue. Sonic Youth have the same kind of dumb, this invocation of sex-drugs-rock-and-roll as the be-all end-all of everything, that ends up being attributed to different kinds of work- it works great for vaguely arty rock music, but is tiresome as hell in the type of poetry that a Thurston Moore will write. But I guess that's not the actual point, and the actual music is the end of it? That makes sense, as a self-fulfilling prophecy- that the rock music will be better than the experimental work meant to glorify it. Like, if you look at John Cage as being punk, and that's what makes him good, it still stands to reason that an actual punk record will be closer to the point than a John Cage performance.

Um, the new Thurston Moore record is pretty good too, despite a few missteps, like ending with a tape recording of Thurston at age 13, recording the sound of Lysol. Or, you know, lyrical atrocities like "Wonderful Witches."

I have made pancakes for breakfast like every weekend since moving into this new place. If you live in Olympia and want pancakes, you should come by. Last week I made waffles instead, but the separating of whites from yolks and then beating the whites into stiff peaks is too much of a hassle, so tomorrow it's back to pancakes. I really need to work it out so the music I choose to listen to is played when I'm doing this, it's too frequently my roommates music, which, in general, is music not meant to be played at high volume being played at really high volume, and then sung along with, poorly. Usually when this happens I can be found playing music in my room, so I can run back to hear the sound of like Lightning Bolt's "On Fire" in the time it takes for the batter to bubble, and then running back to flip it over to brown. I listen to a lot of music I suspect would sound better loud but play at reasonable volume just because it has an element of obnoxiousness that other people wouldn't be prepared for. Take, for example, "Boyz" off the new M.I.A. record, which I was listening to just now. I wanted to write a post all about the new M.I.A., the new Eric Copeland solo record, and the new Oh No record, but this is the type of thing that I conceived of after only hearing little bits of each and hoping there'd be considerable aesthetic overlap, based on the way each addresses the idea of world music. I don't know, I still think it might be possible to edit a playlist that's just those records, shuffled up with some stuff removed- like, for example, the M.I.A. song "Jimmy" which played as I wrote the rest of this.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I meant to start blogging more consistently. It seems a productive way to spend time in front of the computer when my kind can't crank out the fiction as I would like to.

On the same library sojourn that led to me checking out the Millhauser book, the first thing I saw when I walked in the door was a copy of Gary Panter's Jimbo In Purgatory. It's massive, with a bright red cover printed with gold and black ink. It turns out that it actually is bigger than Brian Chippendale's Ninja. It's an inch wider, and just as tall. Both books cover my torso, whereas an average-size comic would only cover my face.

The thing is, there's margins to it, on each page, which Ninja doesn't have- Ninja consumes the paper its printed on, this has more of a frame. Each image has a frame as well, each page consists of a nine or twelve-panel grid, with a drawn frame boxing it in. It looks more like a painting. Or an engraving, actually.

Oh yeah- and it is really is fucking unreadable as a comic. There's an introduction that gives you a conceptual framework, that it's based on Dante's Purgatorio. Each page represents a canto. The poem is followable, narratively, but the comic isn't. The text people speak is just meant to refer to the poem, using references from outside sources- One line is from the Syd Barrett Pink Floyd song "Astronomy Domine," referring to water, because there's a part of the poem where water comes up? It's completely insane. And really hard to follow- The only part you're able to work out from the images is the conclusion- A purifying flame gets passed through, and on the other side is paradise. This is a cool moment, where the images from the panels kind of pass on into the larger frame, which lets the images breathe a bit more. Anyway, ir works more as conceptual art than as a comic, only it's visually stunning, which can't really be said of the sort of conceptual art that would be on a gallery wall?

Conceptually, I suppose, I approve. There's an explication- "purgatory" is a place of higher education. People are going for English degrees, they get this by quoting other people's work. (This is vaguely similar conceptually to John Barth's Giles Goat-Boy.) It's a thing to be passed through, to then be able to do whatever. The thing is, it's really tedious. I'm not planning on going to grad school. In Ninja, there's a panel where a guy on a cloud says "I must shit out all my borrowed ideas" and then proceeds to pop a squat, and that one panel amounts to the same thing, essentially.

What's weird is that- Ninja was drawn over five years, essentially, between 2002 and 2006. Jimbo In Purgatory was printed in 2004, but was completed before then- With the last pages being drawn in 2001. It's described as a work five years in the making, and if this is true, this would take it to 1997. 1997 is when the last issue of Jimbo came out- the one that would be reprinted in 2005 as Jimbo's Inferno. This fall, another Brian Chippendale book is coming out- Maggots, which was apparently drawn in 1996, the year Fort Thunder was founded, and it looks to be a weird and primitive thing. What I'm suggesting in my mind is this kind of weird twin psychic energy pulse that grows in beats back and forth between people who were probably largely unaware of the other, but are nonetheless pursuing the same things forward. Five years of Gary Panter doing this thing called Jimbo In Purgatory that's kind of unsatisfying on its own but leads inadvertently to this thing Brian Chippendale spends five years doing called Ninja. That said, I've previously established that I think that the 1988 book Jimbo: Adventures In Paradise is a masterpiece. The artistic success of that is probably what led to the publication of the Jimbo comic in the mid-nineties, that Matt Groening put out. But, there, the imposition of a schedule, one thirty-two-page comic every three months, led to Panter willfully going back to a more primitive style to start, so he could draw quickly at first and work up to more detailed stuff using the time he gained. Like he hit a reset button on his comics skill-set, going back to the primitive, which is where Brian Chippendale was at at the time, although in a completely different form. Brian Chippendale was drawing all over a Japanese catalog while Gary Panter was reprinting comics he did for a Japanese reggae magazine in the eighties. (That comic, Dal-Tokyo, will be reprinted in finer form later on this year, too, actually) (Now that I think of it, it might be worth noting that Gary Panter, after September 11th, decided to have that comic read right-to-left, in the traditional Japanese comics style. Chippendale, for his part, had been doing comics that went back and forth from left-to-right to right-to-left from tier to tier since he started doing his Maggots minicomics.)

Basically, when Panter finished drawing Jimbo In Purgatory, that was addressing a whole history of narrative, in a manner arrived at following a reset back to a primitive drawing style, Brian Chippendale was then able to return to comics he'd actually drawn as a little kid, and consider the stuff he was doing a continuation, and have that new work have much more narrative thrust than his work had previously.

The two shared an hour of signing at the Picturebox table at MOCCA in New York a few months ago, which in my mind must've been a sight to see. I'm sure they'd met before, but what a weird moment for crossing the streams, Ghostbusters-style.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The new Nina Nastasia record, You Follow Me, is pretty interesting. It's not just credited to Nina Nastasia, Jim White gets equal billing. Jim White has played drums on every previous record, I think. He's in Dirty Three, and when Steve Albini started talking about his job on a poker message board, he highlighted Jim White as being one of the best drummers he's worked with. Nina Nastasia was also credited as being one of the best singers. In this, the two get split billing, like how Interstellar Space was credited to John Coltrane and Rashied Ali. It's just the two of them, no singing saws of the kind that filled out The Blackened Air, no Tuvan throat singers like her last Peel session.

So Jim White plays the shit out of the drums, is what I'm saying- again, think of a free jazz record, only with horn freakouts being replaced by a singer-songwriter. The songs are pretty tight, there's just this huge beat to all of it. Kind of like how I hoped the stuff on the Bjork record Brian Chippendale would be, and was then disappointed to find wasn't there. There's emotion here, it's just played out in a different way than the string sections of the past.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Steven Millhauser wrote a short story, "A Precursor To The Cinema," that appeared in issue 15 of McSweeney's and freaked me out. It read like Borges, if Borges was interested in art history and film rather than just books. It described in really realistic language the fantastic, and summoned up a thing that felt huge to me.

So yesterday I went to the library to actually pick up a book of his, The Knife Thrower and other stories. Partly because I'm acquainted with the style and had a certain set of expectations, nothing startled me like that first piece. Maybe these stories just aren't as good, and the McSweeney's piece was later, so maybe he's just more developed. I don't know, though, he won a Pulitzer in the seventies, and his author photo makes him look like an old man. The book's not bad though.

Millhauser's stories, that I've read at least, all have this theme or point-of-view to them that I fully support. Although my metaphor for it is awful- Did anyone hear about that study that found out that pedophiles were really into Star Trek? And the reasoning postulated wasn't just "haha nerds," but rather that what appealed was this world of aliens and fantasy where more things were allowed?

Millhauser's stuff is like that, in this interest of larger and bolder entertainments, but that leads to some kind of transgression. He creates a world where there are mysteries and craziness, but then sees bad things as the conclusion of this. "Paradise Park" is about an impossible amusement park, "The Sisterhood Of Night" about a secret society of teenage girls, "The New Automaton Theater" about an imagined art tradition of miniature clockwork robots that act out dramas. The more traditional short stories, "A Visit" and "The Way Out" have eccentrics as the catalysts for the action. This a book of short stories- There are a few novels he's written, and a couple books that contain three longer stories apiece, and I don't know what those are like. I imagine they're all kind of similar- He wrote a book that postulated it was written by an eight-year-old.

Basically it's imagining a cooler world than the one we live in, but not a utopia. It gets a little repetitive, but always in the interest of opening things up.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

It's too bad that Ingmar Bergman is dead. I think I've liked every movie I've seen by him, at least well enough. There's the possibility there's a movie I watched on DVD with Alex that I'm forgetting, that was really boring. But "Persona" is just straight-up great, "The Seventh Seal" has some really striking imagery, and "Saraband" was watchable and human. I never got mad at any of his movies.

I was pretty bored by the one Antonioni (sic) movie I've seen, The Passenger. But you know, two filmmakers, two artists, did their thing and they died. It's both sad that they died because they're human beings, but as artists, they'd said all that they had to say. Which I don't mean to imply it's less of a loss, because they weren't going to make any new masterpieces. I feel about it the same way I feel about Kurt Vonnegut- they've made enough stuff that I just feel like the whole of their consciousness is out there in the world now. Their brain is out in the world, it's just not all contained in one skull anymore. Oxygen and blood still reach it. I guess I am mostly talking about Bergman here, because he was more prolific. It's a cliche to say they live on through their work, but man- if you make that many movies, with that much variety between them, over the course of so many years and so many developments, you really really do. Rest in peace, you earned it.