Saturday 20 October 2007

Well how about that!
Twenty three years married todayAnd only murdered each other twice


Friday 19 October 2007

Bonjour to you too!

Tsecond volume of Alec in French, Graffiti Kitchen, is just out this week. Hopefully anybody likely to take offence can't read French. You can see it at left alongside the first volume. Ça et La have changed the cover since we last looked at it here. I expect they don't really want to hear who prefers the first one at this juncture, so keep it to yourself. The edition translates my Three piece Suit and it prints it very nicely. I'm working towards having all four of my autobiographical blathers in digital form. I've just sent the third, How to Be an Artist, now offically out of print in English, off to France on disc, so that's three down and one to go. When all four are done I'll be looking at putting it out a big omnibus in English through Top Shelf.
Seeing wee hayley campbell speaking French long before she knew how to:
... reminds that me she was in that lovely country around the time of my birthday and sent me a bottle of 1995 Coteaux du Layon Chaume, a grand vin d'Anjou, (11 years old? 12? living down here so long i've forgotten when we count from in the northern hemisphere), deliciously sweet. Didn't we bring that kid up right!! She included a cartoon of herself, 'french variant edition campbell with comedy beret':

Nicki Greenberg puts on a slide show at Avid Reader while in town on other business- finds herself a victim of the sort of mishap that happens to me regularly.
Actress (I know we say 'actor' these days for the ladies but...) Deborah Kerr died this week, age i think 86. The bloke on breakfast tv reminded me of one of the great lines of all time:

"When you speak of this, and you will, please be kind."

Spoken by Deboorah Kerr in the movie version of Robert Anderson's Tea and Sympathy. (1956)
Controversial play about the difficult coming-of-age of a boy who is scorned by his peers for being "unmasculine," and the efforts of a sympathetic older woman to help him overcome his self-loathing. The movie version dilutes the effect, despite some excellent performances.

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Thursday 18 October 2007

The man who drinks.
(the other one)

There's not many things that will get Campbell out of an evening these days. There's the Doch Gypsy Orchestra, and, well I can't think of anything else right now. Doch is a small band of half a dozen players with three albums stacked up since 2002, but once a year they play a week at the Brisbane Powerhouse with an expanded band of around twenty five plus a couple of foreign guest singers. (Over two dozen classy musicians on stage all at once!!). They are one of Brisbane's treasures, a young outfit of astonshing musical ability. I first heard of them a few years back when wee hayley campbell phoned from the Queen Street pedestrian precinct shouting 'Dad, there's a band playing here. You gotta hear these people!' I've pinched this picture from the Brisbane Powerhouse site, which is also on the cover of the DVD recording titled THE MAN WHO DRINKS (can't find it for sale online, but that doesn't mean it isn't there) of their 2005 appearance at the venue, except that on there it's in greys and the design, brown on olive green, looks like they don't care much whether you buy it.

Take it from me it's an uproar of joyful music played by beautiful people, and it's exactly as I recall the night except there's only half of it on the disc. Also at the Powerhouse site there is a great video clip of this year's guest singer laying it on thick with intricate guitar accompaniment, a moment for which the wife of my bosom expressed immediate fondness, though it is not the band's typical style. The opening of the Dvd goes like this taster at YOUTUBE. From elsewhere, here's the small band doing Kiberee. And ten minutes from their New Zealand tour, with talk, explaining, rehearsing, great shots of N.Z. itself. Singer/ trumpeter Michael Rogers has a cheeky, engaging personality. They're at the Powerhouse till Sunday, but I'd be surprised if you can still get a seat, and that'll be me staying in till next year, unless they turn up unexpectedly at some other venue.

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Wednesday 17 October 2007

Bath Sea of cider.

Spain is my favourite country in the world. In July 2000 I made my second trip there thanks to Norman Fernandez, who invited me to be a guest at the Semana Negra in Gijon in Asturias on the north coast. They had an exhibition of From Hell art in a big marquee and a 60-page catalogo/appreciation in the style of the KSP From Hell to go with it. I think that was the last time I still owned enough of it to make a show. They'd made a big plaster statue of Jack el Destripador which stood in the middle of the marquee and I had to pose with the big ugly thing for the paper La Voz de Asturias

But the interesting part of this trip was the cider. Now, you have to get this thing right. It must be poured like the little bloke is doing on this label I soaked off a bottle. The liquid is flat and this aerates it. A mouthful plunges from a height, you chuck it down your gullet and the glass is refilled and passed to the next person. The health inspector of my borough would have an apoplectic fit at the thought of it:

I knew I wasn't going to get out of Gijon without being asked to perform the offices of cider pourer, so when I was asked to draw a cover illustration for the festival's daily journal, the natural thing was to draw myself practicing in the shower. Editor Angel de la Calle had me fixed up with some paint and brushes. I taped the paper to the wall using the masking tape I always carry when I travel (you never know when the sole of your shoe will come loose or the leg of your eyeglasses). And I cut the paper using nail scissors (looking at the raggedy edges reminds me).

Angel had wanted a black ink drawing and was despondent when he saw what I handed in. I used a toned paper so that i could apply both white and black/grey. It was slightly green, and textured too, but i didn't see these as problems. Poor Angel thought I was handing in a colour job. I said, no, just photograph it for grey half tone and everything will be fine. I came down the stairs at the hotel the next morning and the girl behind the desk was smirking, so I knew the piece was in print. There it was on top of the daily papers on the coffee table in the lounge. The paper is quite large. I had to scan this in four parts:

My trusty translator in Gijon, Nino Ortea, later sent me this form La Nueva Espana. 26 august 2000. "A Sea of Cider' it says, (I'm guessin, Nino, but maybe I learned something after all.). it appears to be a grab at the guinness record, having 2,639 personas all pouring themselves a cider simultaneously on the beach. The previous record, apparently, was 2,104 in 1999. they must go for it every year. And they were out there enjoying it with sausages cooked on the barbacoa:

This photo goes all the way across a tabloid center-spread (all images click to enlarge).


Tuesday 16 October 2007

Jelly Roll's murder ballad

O ne of the most extraordinary sound recordings ever, was made when Alan Lomax brought Jelly Roll Morton into the studio in 1938, nearly seventy years ago. Morton was effectively washed up as a musician, now working as a manager, bartender and bouncer in a Washigton DC bar. In his heyday he was a pianist, song writer, vaudeville performer and made a bunch of pioneering jazz recordings in the '20s. Lomax "was an important American folklorist and musicologist. He was one of the great field collectors of folk music of the 20th century, recording thousands of songs in the United States, Great Britain, the West Indies, Italy, and Spain." I have a cd of 'Scottish drinking and pipe songs' he produced on location somewhere, but there's not enough notation in the booklet. I also have his "The folk songs of North America" compilation of 1960. The location was the Coolidge auditorium of the Library of Congress and the sound was recorded on equipment that was never meant for commercial recording. "The sessions, originally intended as a short interview with musical examples for use by music researchers in the Library of Congress, soon expanded to record more than eight hours of Morton talking and playing piano." I got this stuff when it was four discs, but I see it's lately been issued complete on seven. The thing about the recordings is that Morton was persuaded to leave in all the raw language. There's a somewhat charming moment where he hesitates but Lomax and his female stenographer assure him it's okay. The centerpiece of the whole thing is a half hour epic called The Murder Ballad, an extended blues played and sung movingly by Morton. It was recorded on seven discs, four and a half minutes on each, with Morton vamping on the piano during changeovers. It is one of the most tragic, hardbitten, mesmerizing things I have ever heard. Doctor Jazz has the sessions transcribed here including the Murder ballad, though as in all blues, seeing it written is only of academic interest beside hearing it performed. Nevertheless, these are four of the sixty one stanzas:

Time is comin’ that a woman don’t need no man,
That’s what she said when she was in jail.
Time is comin’ a woman won’t need no man,
You can get it all with your beautiful hand.

They went to sleep that night, the other gal crawled in her bed,
They went to . . . sleep that night, the other gal crawled in her bed,
She says, “I’m goin’ to get some of this cunt, you bitch, I said.”

Years and years I could take a prick just like a mule,
I could take a great big prick just like a great big mule,
I found out what a big damn fool.

I hustled night and day for that man of mine,
I hustled day and night for that man of mine,
Now I’m through, I’m behind the walls for a long time.
Three years later he was dead, aged either 50 or 55, depending.

Message from Nicki Greenberg:
"I see you're at it again on the blog... flogging the horses of the Bayeux Tapestry!"
Yes, I've desperately tried to change the subject today.
All the same, thanks for roning.

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Monday 15 October 2007

"I wondered why he would buy old wines he never intended to drink..."

T he third volume of Leonard Starr's On Stage (april '59- june '60) is out from Classic Comics Press. I wrote about the first one back here. This is one of the few things I get regularly that I have to read completely from cover to cover as soon as it arrives. I have demanded of publisher Charles Pelto that he let me write the intro to the next one , so I'll save my latest thoughts on it till then.

Graphic stories have come a long way. Robert McCrum- Guardian blog-October 14- on the competition result. Congrats to the winner, Catherine Brighton, but long way? Yeah, right. Then why was Janusczak's 1984 article (short quoted excerpt) on the subject more advanced than this one? They've been stuck on the city exit flyover for 25 years, trying vainly to get onto the freeway.
Thanks to Ben Smith in comments for the above link, who added a few joshing remarks regarding my touchiness about words. The issue is not about the words. You can have the words. It's about whom I have to be associated with. Thus, if 'graphic novel' now means exactly the same thing as American style comic books, then I don't come under either of these headings. It's like olympic boxing and pro wrestling. They kind of look the same, and there's nothing against being interested in both, but there's no way they can take place in the same ring at the same time. They are in opposition. So let those terms refer to the same thing, and that leaves another opposing thing over here that doesn't have a name. My pal White and I have taken to referring to it as 'that thing of ours' like they did on the Sopranos.

If 'comics' means 'sequential art', then that's not the medium I'm working in either. You can have the words, I don't want them. The medium I'm in is not restricted by McCloudianism and includes regular panel cartoons and EXcludes a lot of stuff that McCloud INcludes, like the Bayeux tapestry and William Hogarth. Including such things as these comes under the heading of 'The lowbrow colonisation of culture' and is despicable. I wouldn't want anybody to think I'd condone that.
It's dead simple.

I"ve only ever had one conversation with art spiegelmaus (plus a few follow-up emails), and he spent the whole ten or fifteen minutes railing against 'graphic novel'. I kept trying to say, hey, artie haven't we got more important things to talk about? Poor wee artie, he had the misfortune of having the first volume of Maus come out at the same time as that godawful Dark Knight and now he's got to be stuck to it like a siamese twin. I feel for the guy.
drjon links me to this compelling piece in the New Yorker on Wine counterfeiting.
The Jefferson Bottles- How could one collector find so much rare fine wine?- by Patrick Radden Keefe _ September 3,
When I wondered why he would buy old wines that he never intended to drink, Koch shrugged. “I’m never going to shoot Custer’s rifle,” he said.

...Rajat Parr, a prominent wine director who oversees restaurants in Las Vegas, told me that several years ago some of his customers ordered a bottle of 1982 Pétrus, which can sell in restaurants for as much as six thousand dollars. The party finished the bottle and ordered a second. But the second bottle tasted noticeably different, so they sent it back. The staff apologetically produced a third bottle, which the diners consumed with pleasure. Parr closely examined the three bottles and discovered the problem with the second one: it was genuine.


Sunday 14 October 2007

Fletcher Martin

Leif Peng is looking at the work of Fletcher Martin (1904-1979) again and links to a gallery with a large collection of the artist's work.

I'm quite taken with the very real affection for women that I see in Martin's paintings.

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