Saturday, 10 October 2009

A few years ago I was listening to a group of people discuss hypothetically what they would do upon discovering that they only have six months to live. Their imaginative plans involved spending their hard earned cash on all the things that they would always have liked to have done, and other stuff besides, just because the clock was now ticking. Most of it involved travel to exotic places, like the great wall of China. I can't make sense of that at all. It's not like you'd be able to keep a memory of it. Me, I'd walk the dog, and spend longer doing it. And sit around in company in the evenings drinking tea and making sure that whatever wisdom I possess gets passed along.

The thing I would absolutely NOT do is waste a single minute sitting on a plane.

When I mentioned anxiety on Thursday (thanks by the way to those who suggested ointments and whatnot), I wasn't fretting about having to appear in a very public forum. The program is to take place in another city and involves a flight. It's the travel that gives me anguish. I woke up this morning with a memory of being stuck endlessly in an airport. I worked upon the images in my head trying to recall which airport I was remembering, till it came to me that it was Manchester, and only a year ago. My plane was leaving first thing in the morning, and rather than face a nervous and hectic early morning rush, i went to the airport the night before and did my best to fall asleep in the big empty departure lounge.

I travel abroad every year, often more that once a year. In 2002 I made five trips. The one that sticks in my head from that year is Florida. A couple of hours out of Denver one of the two engines conked out and the plane had to come down carefully in Memphis. Everybody else from that flight got an alternative connection except me. It was late and I had to book into a nearby hotel, knowing that I would need to be out of there by five in the morning to make the start of the Will Eisner 'Graphic Novel' Symposium in Gainesville at which I was a guest. This was after coming all the way from Australia. I was the walking dead already and was hardly likely to nod off knowing I needed to be alert again so soon. But I had to give it a try. A few days later I was stuck in motionless traffic for two hours between Gainesville and Orlando, horribly uncomfortably asleep sitting in the front passenger seat of a car.

Before October is over I have yet another flight to dread. I'm off to Italy and there has already been a hiccup with this one. It was all booked and paid for in July, but now I get a phone call to inform me that the manager at the travel agency, who has been dealing efficiently with all my travel for the last ten years, has embezzled a quarter of a million bucks and the place has had to close down. The payment I made, 4,600 bucks, did not go where it was supposed to go and I'll need to pay again to secure the flights while things are done to see about repaying the original deposit from the insurance fund to which the agency subscribed. The wife of my bosom has already told everyone we're going to Tuscany. Momentarily she pictures us sitting at home for two weeks with the lights off and the windows closed.

May nothing occur. (as the say in Leotard)

(Marco, It's all right. We'll be there. Image from The Fate of the Artist)


Friday, 9 October 2009

Some reading:

First clown in space hosts show to save Earth's water
Guy Laliberte's two-hour performance event called "Moving Stars and Earth for Water" linked the International Space Station with singers, dancers and celebrity campaigners in 14 world cities in what organizers called the first event of its kind to be hosted from space.
"I see stars, I see darkness and emptiness. But planet Earth looks so great, and also so fragile," Laliberte said from the International Space Station, where he has spent the past week after paying $35 million to fly on a Russian spacecraft and become the world's seventh space tourist.

Marge Simpson makes cover of Playboy LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – "D'oh!" doesn't even start to cover it. Marge Simpson -- the blue beehived matriarch of America's most loved dysfunctional family - is Playboy magazine's November cover, the magazine said on Friday.
Simpson, tastefully concealing her assets behind a signature Playboy Bunny chair, is the first cartoon character ever to front the glossy adult magazine, joining the ranks of sex symbols like Marilyn Monroe and Cindy Crawford...


Thursday, 8 October 2009

Warren Ellis writes about Gil Kane's isolated publications of 1968 and 1971. He says something that reflects on a stupid argument that I occasionally find myself in. That's the argument that the 'graphic novel' is widely said to be a 'format,' for example as in this passage I mocked:
"One of the most common mistakes made in our medium is the confusion of Comic Books with Graphic Novels. This is sort of like referring to a Magazine as a Newspaper; while they may contain similar information, they are entirely different formats."
Some of you folk are more likely to pay attention to what Warren Ellis says than what I say:
"this is happening in 1968 and 1971. A crime graphic novel in magazine format, featuring a protagonist appearing not unlike Lee Marvin in POINT BLANK. (Remember that brilliant trailer for POINT BLANK? “Walker is an emotional and primitive man.”) A fantasy graphic novel in mass-market paperback format, to go on the bookshelf next to those CONAN fix-ups by Lin Carter and L Sprague De Camp"
Note that in his perfectly sensible concept of it, the 'graphic novel' is separate from the format in which it appears (two different in the above), which is interesting because there are a lot of otherwise intelligent people in the 'graphic novel' business who can't separate the two. In the literary world a novel may exist simultaneously in a number of different formats, as in this passage from the Wordsworth Classics introduction to James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: "Joyce threw the manuscript of the novel into the fire. Although rescued by the author's sister Eileen, this was not the end of the troubles for the novel; initially serialised in the London journal the Egoist, the book form of the novel was rejected by a number of publishers before being brought out by the American publisher B W Huebsch in 1916." Note that it was still a novel when it was variously a) an unpublished manuscript, b) a serial published in a magazine, c) a published book. If, generally speaking, the people who read comic books had ever read anything else besides, they would already know this.

Apologies to all who are already sick to the stomach of the boneheadedly endless dissertation on the meaning of a term, but I have once again been invited onto the television to spout forth on a half hour chat program devoted to the subject. This time I have taken care to make sure that the groundwork is impeccably correct and that the participants are of unimpeachable artistic character. I am hopeful that it will work out well. More on this after it is prerecorded next Tuesday.

Hmmm... the cold sore on my lip is just starting on cue, as it always does when a certain agitation comes over me. By Tuesday it is certain to be a hanging scab that cannot be removed without opening my lip... good grief!

Understanding the Anxious Mind- NY Times Magazine, sept 29.
These psychologists have put the assumptions about innate temperament on firmer footing, and they have also demonstrated that some of us, like Baby 19, are born anxious — or, more accurately, born predisposed to be anxious...
“I was flesh bereft of spirit,” wrote the journalist Patricia Pearson in “A Brief History of Anxiety (Yours and Mine),” in a pitch-perfect description of this emotional morass, “a friable self, grotesque... I got an AIDS test. I had my moles checked. I grew suspicious of pains in my back. If I was nauseous, I worried about cancer and started reading up obsessively on symptoms. I lay in bed whenever I could, trying to shut up the clamor of terror with sleep.”

right, that's me off back to bed.


Wednesday, 7 October 2009

What were they thinking?

I don't know what else to say.
'Jackson Jive' apologises for racist Hey Hey skit
THE frontman of a controversial black-face skit on Hey Hey It's Saturday has apologised, saying it is ironic he has been called racist, given his Indian background.
Following international outcry, Dr Anand Deva, a prominent Sydney-based plastic surgeon, went public and said the Jackson Jive act on the show's popular Red Faces segment last night was not meant to cause offence, but he admitted he would not have performed it in the US.
"Clearly, all of us want to apologise. I mean we have offended some people no doubt, particularly Harry Connick Jr," he said.
If you must look, somebody has already Youtubed it (found by our pal Bob Morales)


Breaking News.

Australian race fans told to keep to 24 cans of beer a day: Police have issued restrictions on alcohol at the forthcoming Bathurst 1,000 car race
Police in charge of the Bathurst 1,000 car race in Bathurst, New South Wales, issued the restrictions before the start of the four-day event this Thursday.
Spectators are limited to one 24-can case each of full-strength beer, although if revellers are willing to consume lower-strength alcohol (3.5% abv or less) they will be entitled to a more satisfactory 36 cans.
Wine lovers have not escaped the heavy hand of the law either, being restricted to a punitive four litres a day.


Tuesday, 6 October 2009

On Sept 7 I said the New Adventures of the Spirit was out that week. Very previous of me.

However, I just received a copy in the mail, so it does actually exist. Watch for it this week or next. Image above from a panel drawn by Ed Hillyer in Volume 1 of Bacchus, which I am currently compiling. I'll let you know when that one's not coming out too.

The Louvre has "permitted McDonald's to open an outlet practically in the museum":
The Giaconda's legendary watery half-smile will, if popular passion is believed, wince under the pervasive odour of Le Big Mac and associated McDonaldry as they float up through IM Pei's pyramid and make their insidious way through the palatial salons, up the grand staircase, under the armpits of the Winged Victory at Samothrace, left down the corridor and right up the Mona Lisa's left nostril. A stale kipper set before the Queen could not be a worse breach of protocol.
Having a google alert that tells me every time my name is mentioned on the internet, I find myself taking a sympathetic interest in the calamities that befall my namesakes: Man left homeless after Monday afternoon crash
FORT WALTON BEACH — After climbing out of his wrecked Chevy S-10 in the intersection of First Street and Perry Avenue, Eddie Campbell pulled out his broom and began sweeping up what was left of his life.
Campbell was heading east on First Street when the truck was hit by a Nissan Altima heading south on Perry Ave. Campbell said the other driver, who asked not to be identified, ran the red light. The Altima driver places said the same of Campbell.
The wreck left both drivers stranded.
Until Campbell’s Monday afternoon wreck, the East River Smokehouse Barbecue employee was living in his blue Chevy truck.
“I’ve been sleeping in my truck because I ain’t been able to get a house because it costs so much,” Campbell said...
"In a way, the story of Betty and Veronica is a demented combination of Ground Hog Day and the Myth of Sisyphus."


Monday, 5 October 2009

Some reading:

Ghost Writers- Wall st. Journal, oct 2
A new wave of posthumous books by iconic authors is stirring debate over how publishers should handle fragmentary literary remains. Works by Vladimir Nabokov, William Styron, Graham Greene, Carl Jung and Kurt Vonnegut will hit bookstores this fall. Ralph Ellison and the late thriller writer Donald E. Westlake have posthumous novels due out in 2010.
The posthumous works may generate as much controversy as enthusiasm. Many are incomplete or appear in multiple drafts, raising thorny questions about author intent. Others, dug up from the archives of authors' early and less accomplished work, could be branded disappointing footnotes to otherwise lustrous literary legacies...
Vladimir Nabokov instructed his family to burn his final novel, "The Original of Laura," after his death. He had sketched out the novel on 138 index cards, a process he used to write "Lolita" and other works. Nobody, not even Mr. Nabokov's son and literary executor, Dmitri Nabokov, knows the exact order the author intended for the cards.

Why would you burn your life's work?-BBC News mag-oct 5
Along with David Bailey and Terence Donovan, Brian Duffy took many iconic images of the 1960s. Then, one day, he decided to set fire to his life's work.
Negatives don't burn quite as well as you might imagine.
If they did, Brian Duffy would have seen his life's work consumed by the flames. As it was, whole sections - but not all - of his images chronicling the 1960s and 1970s were lost.
The Job of the book editor- Daniel Menaker-Review,Barnes and
Genuine literary discernment is often a liability in editors.

Review coverage means far less than it used to --when, for example, a front-page review in the New York Times Book Review usually guaranteed a certain level of recognition and sales.

Many books that do show a profit show a profit so small that it only minimally darkens a company's red ink.

Usually, writers, like anyone else who performs in public and desires wide recognition, no matter how successful they become, have an unslakeable thirst for attention and approval -- in my opinion (and, I'm embarrassed to say, in my own case) usually left over from some early-childhood deficit or perception of deficit in the attention-and-approval department.

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Sunday, 4 October 2009

Tom Spurgeon contemplates an article from a couple of months back: On The Subject Of Return Reading
"The author and music writer David Gates penned an article this summer for Newsweek -- where I think he's a staffer -- on the pleasures of re-reading. Gates seems to view re-reading as way to spend time in the company of memorable characters that have touched him in his lifelong give-and-take with literature."
..and selects his favourite handful of books for reading again. Coincidentally, today I just finished reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay for the second time. I picked it up to momentarily derail my brain from an irritating subject and then wrote off most of the weekend in its company.

"In the immemorial style of young men under pressure, they decided to lie down for a while and waste time."

"Dinner was a fur muff, a dozen clothespins, and some old dish towels boiled up with carrots. The fact that the meal was served with a bottle of prepared horseradish enabled Sammy to conclude that it was intended to pass for braised short ribs of beef. Many of Ethel's specialties arrived thus encoded by condiments."

"The pyjamas were patterned with red pinstripes and tiny blue escutcheons. Sammy was wearing a pair that had red escutcheons with blue pinstripes. That was Rosa's idea of fostering a sense of connection between father and son. As any two people who have ever dressed in matching pyjamas will attest, it was surprisingly effective."

It's a wonderful book, and I thought Chabon spoiled things a little by allowing Dark Horse to adapt the Escapist, the comic book character invented by the two young men, into an actual comic book series. I wasn't dismayed enough however to turn down the opportunity to do my own version of the character. This was in 2005, and in the same issue as the last thing drawn by the late Will Eisner. Dan Best wrote the story, which was set at the 1940 Empire City World's Fair, an approximation of the famous NY one. The Escapist has to get himself out of the time-capsule. The New York one was just a couple of feet high, but this one was big enough to imprison a person inside along with the other stuff that was being salted away for future rediscovery a thousand years later. Actually, we didn't know the NY one was so small until we had already committed ourselves. I found a load of old pictures of the NY Fair, which fascinated me for their oddly tinted colours, which I presume are a result of the aging of printing inks, or the yellowing of paper, or the imperfections of early colour photographic reproduction processes, or all of the above. I tried to capture the odd harmonies that I saw in the old photos:

It was twelve pager, but Michael suggested a sharper ending (showing the opening of the time capsule a thousand years later and the odd thing that was found there) that required us to add a thirteenth page. I was glad to see him tinkering with the stories, like I'd hoped Eisner would have done with the New Adventures of the Spirit, though I'm sure his Pulitzer prize-winning time would have been better spent working on his next novel.

Related: I just noticed that there's an excellent portrait of Michael Chabon by Tom Yeates currently at the top of Steve Gettis' Hey Oscar Wilde page
Previous posts on Chabon, including the last that was heard of a possible movie adaptation of Kavalier and Clay.

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