Saturday 28 July 2007

saturday morning

L ast night had dinner and many laughs with Bill Horberg, film producer and Charlie Mitchell, writer of The Black Diamond Detective Agency screenplay. At left is a rare item you may never see. Bill gave me a copy, of which there are five hundred I think, last year. Without any pretense of being a graphic artist he fondly constructed, using collage and comic strip, an honest and engaging account of his meeting with Mickey Spillane and his attempt to develop a project with him. Artist Elsa Mora painted the cover for it in an approximation of the 1950s paperback style.
Charlie told me he's started writing another Black Diamond story.
Wee Cal is buying heaps of stuff. I'm curious to see how the lad thinks we're getting it all in the suitcases. I'm reminded of the time at con clean-up I scored a life-size cardboard stand up figure of Poison Ivy for my daughter Erin. For free. But then I had to pay a hundred bucks to get it on the plane. Having pictured her delight at having Uma Thurman standing around in her bedroom I wasn't about to back out.

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Friday 27 July 2007


I took up Don Murphy's invitation (in comments here last week) and went to the 'premeere' (as they pronounce it in the USA) of his new production Shoot'em Up written and directed by Michael Davis (who introduced the film with the bubbling enthusiasm of a real 'fan'), starring Clive Owen and Monica Bellucci. I enjoyed this thing, with its brazenly unpretentious title (I'll take it any day over the Bourne Preposterousness). And the title does indeed describe the entire contents of the ride. That plus a couple of unlikely characters, a gun-juggling tough guy shooter in the usual mould, plus a lactating hooker, being stuck in the situation of saving a baby. The explanation for why an army of asassins is trying to off the infant is clever enough to take our mind off the improbability of the premise, but much less interesting than the mayhem which it justifies. The story taps into something of an archetype and I'm struggling to line it up in my noodle. I did a wee story a long time ago titled Dapper John Minds the Baby, in which I was consciously lifting Damon Runyon's Butch Minds the Baby. In the latter a safe-cracker is minding a baby to help out a poor girl who is having trouble making ends meet, but he gets called off on a heist and takes the baby along with him. I mention this to suggest that there is in fact a lttle more going on in the present movie that just the relentless shooting 'em up, though that is done with enough imagination to keep Campbell awake to midnight. There is a fantasy in which we may momentarily in our imagination set aside the fear that being responsible for a wee'un will lead to cosy slippers and resignation to a life of unremitting dullness. And who'd have thought Paul Giammtti would make such a convincing heavy?
A few stills here. Owen eats carrots all through the piece, which is a fun schtick. I enjoyed the one I was handed on the way out. Thanks, Don. munch.

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Thursday 26 July 2007

How my business trip turned into a vacation, almost.

It's the cardinal rule.
You don't get the important thing out to show off to show off to the assembled luminaries, when you're in a bar, jetlagged, and into your third beer.
The important thing in this case is the mock-up of my The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard. It took me and Anne four hours to photocopy in colour and wee Cal spent most of a day sticking on the word balloons.
And the problem with three beers is that they are apt to undermine your grasp of the cardinal rule.

It was around three o'clock the next day when I realized it was missing.
First place I went to of course was the bar. One day I intend to write a book about things left in bars. During the short spell I worked in one in Blackpool, while I was polishing glasses on a Sunday morning, an attractive girl came in and mumbled something with her hand half over her mouth. I cocked my ear. She mumbled again. She had lost her false teeth the previous night and was retracing her steps.

The mock-up wasn't in the hotel bar. But I hadn't been off the premises, to the best of my recollection. I went back to the room and consulted my external hard-drive. He was snoozing and objected to being woken up. I got through to him the intense importance of the situation. I was to hand the mock-up to my editor, the illustrious Mr. Mark Siegel that night so that we could discuss it over dinner the following night and map out all that had to be done on it before the absolute deadline three weeks away.
"While I was looking at the turtles in the decorative pond, you went to the bathroom."
The restroom in the hotel lobby. Of course. It wasn't there now. I asked a porter. he pointed to the front desk.
yup. They had it. I described page 15 in intimate detail to prove ownwership (since it hadn't occurred to me to write my name on it) and all was well.
Right, i'm off to breakfast.

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Wednesday 25 July 2007

captive audience.

New Zealand Air provides your own movie screen on the back of the seat in front, and your own set of controls, and a decent selection of recent films and classics, so I caught up with some of the movies I've been missing while I've had my head down finishing The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard.
300 to begin with. Greece must be one of the brightest places in the world. Here it's the colour of the varnish on old oil paintings. It's most interesting when Miller's still pictures are translated to moving ones. I can willingly suspend disbelief as well the next person, but some standard movie set-ups occasionally break my involvement, for instance the ending just like the one in Braveheart. But why is the bard leading the assembled armies of Greece?
A couple of lovely English historical things I was better able to lose my self in: Becoming Jane about Jane Austen's moment of truth. Hard enough to decide to make your way in the world as a writer, but being a woman and being in the nineteenth century.
Amazing Grace starring Ioan Grufudd and a some of the best living British actors Ian Richardson (no, wait, he was in the Jane Austen movie. must have been one he made before he died, as my mum would say. hi, Mum!) Michael Gambon etc.. the story of William Wilberforce, the Man who tirelessly railed against the evil of slavery and eventually won its abolition in Britain in 1807. A great movie about a great man whom we should all know more about. The title comes from the song written by John Newton who also plays a role in the story, played by Albert Finney.
Lonely heart with Travolta and Gandolfini, who also does the spoken narration, as a pair of detectives in a 1940s story that is probably based on a true case. It plays well, and convincingly, with none of the stupid compromises that usually go into movies, though some of that narration sounds a bit too self consciously hard boiled.
Wee cal chose Ghost Rider, that nutty skating thing with Will Farrell and The Shooter. He watched 300 for 15 minutes then switched to a vid game. I was sitting close enough I could probably review all those too, even without the sound.
When my eyes got tired i found a whole cd's worth of Jacques Loussier doing his jazz thing to two Mozart piano concertos (#20 and #23). Must buy the cd and listen some more.

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Tuesday 24 July 2007

I don't believe it, I've gone and done it again

I arrived at the check-in without my passport. Again. the problem this time is that I have two passports. I recently renewed it , but my resident's permit is still in the old one. I need to carry two, one to get out of Australia and another to get back in. And I only brought one. So the once again it cost me seventy bucks to tear home at high speed in a taxi and get it. The way I look at it is that It's that time of year when I have to pay the stupidity tax. The hard part was explaining to Monty that this wasn't actually me arriving home from my travels. Not to forget Wee Cal left sitting at the airport with a growing sense of dismay, and a little of that mortal terror I feel every time I travel.
It gives me the excuse to show the incident the way it played out the first time, as recorded in The Fate of the Artist.

Except that it doesn't.

Sitting here in the hotel lobby I have just accidentally erased two of the three images I placed in 'drafts folder' earlier (curse that damn 'autosave' that blogger introduced recently). So I'll show the one that's left. The idea was to show how the original black and white presentation looked before I colorized it at the invitation of the publisher, First Second. I sent him scans made through the tracing paper overlay. And the color was added delicately in gouache.

I'll show the rest at a later date.
Chris Staros just appeared in the lobby. I'm off for a beer.

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Monday 23 July 2007

his nibs (1)

T ime for another technical post, all about the pen nibs I've used. The degree of flexibility is the primary consideration. A very flexible nib that suited my purposes is the Hunt 103, seen on the left in the photo. Something about that little florette shaped vent hole enables the tines to spread wide for great flexibility. The more rigid Gillott 209 is next to it. I used that for back up, when I needed to get in closer and turn around in a narrower space. The one on the far right is the quite different 'crowquill' style. More on that next time.

Wikipedia: Thick and thin strokes can be achieved by varying the pressure the nib is pushed against the paper. A hard pressure causes the nib tines to widen allowing more ink to come in to contact with the paper, this results in a thick stroke. Light pressure causes the tines to narrow and even close creating very fine hairline strokes. These flexible quills and later steel nibs were what led to the styles of penmanship such as Copperplate and then Spencerian. However pointed nibs are not just used for the purpose of writing, pointed quills have been utilised by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci for sketching and pen drawing. Although any pointed steel nib can be used for drawing, nibs that resemble flexible nibs but are much more rigid have been produced for pen drawing.
Below are two portraits of the real (as opposed to our fictional version) William Gull I drew from photos, using the Hunt 103, for the From Hell scripts book way back in 1994. I was always very pleased with these, but whenever they were reproduced it was always too small to notice anything about the pen technique (click for larger). I once read that the great illustrator Charles Dana Gibson (left, greatly reduced) used great big flexible nibs as though they were paint brushes, and worked standing at an easel in a smock, with his art board upright. I tried to take some of Gibson's panache on board.

However it was usually difficult to carry that quality over into the small rectangular panels of the From Hell chapters themselves. Here's a good attempt from chapter 1:

For further investigation: a display of the Hunt nibs and the equivalent catalogue for Gillott

'I don't think bloggers read' -Friday July 20, 2007- The Guardian
Andrew Keen says the internet is populated by second-rate amateurs. He's written a book, The Cult of the Amateur, with the no-messing-about subtitle "How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy"
Until recently the Wikipedia entry for Andrew Keen informed readers that, in addition to coming from Golders Green, London, having an academic background and being an outspoken critic of Web 2.0, he was also "a child actor who found fame in a series of soup commercials". This isn't true; the sentence was inserted deliberately by the host of a Radio 3 show prior to an appearance by Keen, to show how easily the accuracy of Wikipedia can be undermined. This bit of factual vandalism remained for 12 days before it was removed - 11 days longer than an emendation from June 5, which replaced the entire first paragraph with the words "Andrew Keen IS a dumb motherfucker".

(link thanks to Mick Evans)

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Sunday 22 July 2007

"...the annals of drunken college students, whiny Bush supporters, and bitter ex-spouses.

A few things that came up today while I try not to think about getting on a plane the day after tomorrow. I intend, by the way, to keep this blog going while in transit. I guess the posting times will go awry, but let's see how far I get with my intention. I've borrowed my pal Best's old laptop, the one with a crack though it. Cracked shall be my posting then!

Rowling brings Potter to magical end -By Deirdre Donahue at USA TODAY explains what made Harry Potter work.
With the series at the end, the question remains: What explains Rowling's appeal? Perhaps it is that her imaginative creativity infuses her unparalleled range. The pages fly because of the suspense.
Starting with their names, her characters are unforgettable. She can create small domestic scenes and dramatic battle tableaux. She can convey adolescent self-absorption and invoke full-chill gothic horror. She created an entire alternative world where mundane activities such as mail delivery were imbued with enchantment.

At the Comics Journal forum somebody links to an old Neil Gaiman interview at from 2002, where the similarity between Harry and Neil's earlier Tomothy Hunter is queried. Neil's summary of how genre fiction works quite illuminating:
"... the thing about genre fiction--it's like a great big bubbling stewpot: ingredients go in, and stew comes out. And as you go, you add stuff to the stew. If you're a good writer, you keep popping stuff into the stew while you're going.
I was certainly not the first writer to create a bespectacled kid who had the potential to be the world's greatest magician. To create a kid with magical power--and more important, magical potential--and to use owls and so on, it's all stuff that's fairly obvious going on what went before. J. K. Rowling was not the first person to send a kid to wizard school. From Jaime Olan and Diane Duane in recent years--Diana Wynne Jones is marvelous! (Witch Week and Charmed Life.)--going back to T. H. White and E. Nesbitt."

Connect this with my long quotation from RG Collingwood in my post of 7 Feb

While googling for something else which I can't talk about yet, I came across an old post by Canadian author Crawford Killian: Are Blogs Literature? (nov 2003)
So when we contemplate the geyser of writing unleashed by blogging technology, we should not feel disappointed that it's a geyser of sludge. Even if future technology permits the reading of today's blogs, no one will care. A Ph.D. just wouldn't be worth plowing through the annals of drunken college students, whiny Bush supporters, and bitter ex-spouses.
I note he was born in 1941. Perhaps he is of a generation that still believes in the idea of a ring-o-roses of smart academically minded people cultivating the charming abstraction of Literature as a scale of still unfolding great works, and they decide who gets to be in it. Can he get through all his time here and still hold disappointment at bay? Perhaps I should follow his blog and find out. Somebody in his comments seems to think permanence is the yardstick. The world gets the literature it deserves. If the wisest words of our times appeared momentarily on somebody's blog yesterday, nobody read them and nobody saved them, and never mind the proverbial tree in the forest, we'd be a right bunch of fools wouldn't we! And since a fool can never know the measure of his folly, it would be wiser to presume, or at least suspect, that they DID.