Saturday 10 November 2007

I'm up in the middle of the night discharging some persisitent ideas out of my head and I see some news has come in. Also, If you read yesterday's post early, you may not have seen a couple of pictures I added.

NY Times- Nov 10- Norman Mailer, the macho prince of American letters died Saturday, his literary executor said.

He was 84. Mailer died of acute renal failure at Mount Sinai Hospital, said J. Michael Lennon, who is also the author's official biographer. From his classic debut novel, The Naked and the Dead, to such masterworks of literary journalism as The Armies of the Night, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner always got credit for insight, passion and originality.
After his last thing I read I figured he'd lost his marbles anyway: The Rise of Mailerism
Norman Mailer’s God, not surprisingly, is a great artist, who created mankind and all the plants and other animals, and could reincarnate them according to his whim. But he was not all-powerful. Because there was the Devil—and the Devil had technology. And lately, the Devil seems to be winning…
Some of his creations work, and some need improvement—Mailer believes in a highly modified version of Intelligent Design.
"I see God, rather, as a Creator, as the greatest artist. I see human beings as His most developed artworks. I also see animals as His artworks. When I think of evolution, what stands out most is the drama that went on in God as an artist. Successes were also marred by failures. I think of all the errors He made in evolution as well as of the successes. In marine life, for example, some fish have hideous eyes—they protrude from the head in tubes many inches long. Think of all those animals of the past with their peculiar ugliness, their misshapen bodies, worm life, frog life, vermin life, that myriad of insects—so many unsuccessful experiments. These were also modes the Artist was trying—this great artist, this divine artist—to express something incredible, and it was not, for certain, an easy process. Sometimes a young artist has to make large errors before he or she can go further.
(link thanks to Bob Morales)

One of God's better efforts is shooting horses this week:
MORE than 10,000 brumbies will be slaughtered in Queensland in a massive cull the State Government has tried to hide. Documents obtained by The Courier-Mail show fears of a public outcry led to high-level talks on how to conceal one of the world's largest animal culls. But the kill to help the environment - including shooting horses in the state's southeast - is already drawing international condemnation from animal rights groups and criticism of the RSPCA for condoning it.
Sterilise, don't cull brumbies: RSPCA
Spokesman Michael Beatty says sterility programs - where the drug is administered through a dart - have worked in the US and should have been introduced years ago.


Washington University launches Modern Graphic History Library with two exhibitions beginning Nov. 16 -Nov. 8, 2007 --
"Popular art delivers the ultra-now, the super-here," Dowd notes in a brochure accompanying the Highlights exhibition. "Often, over-exposure or simple datedness follows, and such works are consigned to the garage, literally and figuratively. But later, reconnected with lost contexts and seen afresh, they provide the frisson of frozen history."
The event will focus on illustration, cartoons, comics and other images that are not traditionally addressed by art history ...

(link via Heidi)


Friday 9 November 2007

"the caboose was last seen heading onto the siding with the rest of the fond hopes."

The only 'comics' I have found worth reading in the last two or three weeks is the selection of Otto Soglow in the November Comics Journal #286. There are 37 colour sundays from 1933/34 with 5 pages of text intro. This is Otto Soglow's The Ambassador, a title and character used for contractual reasons until the much more famous Little King could be freed from The New Yorker's lease. I'm working through it a page or two at a time, rationing it. Every page gives me a laugh out loud, and it's good to have a couple to look forward to tomorrow. The Ambassador is a man of humble pleasures. After being shown around his lavish new estate he sneaks out to the back garden to paddle in the birdbath:

Update, to add. After I posted the above, my pal mr j sent me a couple of jpegs, being the cover and a page (on the subject of London fog- click to enlarge) from Soglow's 1939 book, Confidential History of Modern England

coincidentally, Allan Holtz just posted a photo with Soglow in it, nov 7

In the same issue of the Comics Journal, R. Fiore: "Back in the '80s, when I was working for Fantagraphics, the great dream was that if comics could only break into the mainstream bookstores they would find themselves on a level playing field where the tastes of the CBG's ('Comic book guys' in his thesis, what I've been calling 'comic book culture') would not hold sway. While the front end of the dream came true, the caboose was last seen heading onto the siding with the rest of the fond hopes."

It's foolish of me to be wasting my time on the likes of the following, but it has become a morbid fascination. Comic books get literary treatment at library By MATT CASEY -- Evening Sun - 11/08/2007

Whether you call them comic books or graphic novels, it's not all about men in spandex. So the Dillsburg Area Public Library's winter session of lectures will teach you just that. Library director Jean Pelletiere said she's running this lecture series so she can find out what graphic novels are "all about." "I've just discovered that it's called a format, not a genre," she said.
Keep feeding that to the media, you idiots; comics still have much to contribute to the great dumbing down of culture.

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Thursday 8 November 2007

Indulgence dept.

The oldest wine we have ever drunk here at Castle Campbell was this 1933 Australian port at 70 years old (Australia is very good at making fortified wines, within a limited style range.) Wines this old tend to be met more in the way of academic-historic enquiry than of gastronomic pleasure. Thus I found myself, after realising I'd forgotten to decant it, inordinately curious about the magnificent pile of sediment in the bottle, and wondering how it would look in the glass:

I was hoping wee hayley campbell would do me a write-up of the event at the Bishopsgate Institute with Iain Sinclair, Alan Moore and Michael Moorcock. But instead she links me to the one by Andrew Hickey. Good line here, but I misread it because i thought he said pet instead of poet. Must get my eyes checked.

Moorcock was fascinating on this subject, and I'd like to hear him talk more about it - he was essentially riffing on Shelley's line about poets being the unacknowledged legislators of humanity, talking about how "we can't get real change, and the only way to get actual change is to change the rhetoric"

Flasher strips off in court A German flasher stunned lawyers during his appeal hearing on a flashing conviction by stripping off in court, authorities said.


Wednesday 7 November 2007

The idea of Art in our times is changing radically. All of the desperate defining and containing that is much mocked in this blog is the vain effort to medicate the metaphysical nausea we experience upon finding ourselves on a shifting funhouse floor. This brilliant interview with Cory Doctorow by Joel Turnipseed pins down a few of the facts we need to accept: (read the whole thing, but by its nature I shouldn't feel guilty about stealing a large chunk)

We live in a century in which copying is only going to get easier. It's the 21st century, there's not going to be a year in which it's harder to copy than this year; there's not going to be a day in which it's harder to copy than this day; from now on. Right? If copying gets harder, it's because of a nuclear holocaust. There's nothing else that's going to make copying harder from now on. And so, if your business model and your aesthetic effect in your literature and your work is intended not to be copied, you're fundamentally not making art for the 21st century. It might be quaint, it might be interesting, but it's not particularly contemporary to produce art that demands these constraints from a bygone era. You might as well be writing 15-hour Ring Cycle knock-offs and hoping that they'll be performed at the local opera. I mean, yes, there's a tiny market for that, but it's hardly what you'd call contemporary art.

So that's the artistic reason. Finally, there's the ethical reason. And the ethical reason is that the alternative is that we chide, criminalize, sue, damn our readers for doing what readers have always done, which is sharing books they love—only now they're doing it electronically. You know, there's no solution that arises from telling people to stop using computers in the way that computers were intended to be used. They're copying machines. So telling the audience for art, telling 70 million American file-sharers that they're all crooks, and none of them have the right to due process, none of them have the right to privacy, we need to wire-tap all of them, we need to shut down their network connections without notice in order to preserve the anti-copying business model: that's a deeply unethical position. It puts us in a world in which we are criminalizing average people for participating in their culture.
(Link via Journalista)


Tuesday 6 November 2007

"Michigan Water tastes like Sherry Wine"

This one's for my pal Pam Noles.

I was listening, while working, to the tv playing in another room when I heard a current ad for babies' nappies, or diapers as they say in USA, using the old song Pretty Baby, and I got to thinking about how that must be one of the most enduring of 20th century songs.
Dean Martin recorded it,and sings it here, in case you just flew in from Uranus don't know the number.
It was written by a New Orleans pianist named Tony Jackson (pictured left in the only circulated photo) sometime before 1916, which is the date it was published.
Tony Jackson was born to a poor African American family in Uptown New Orleans, Louisiana on June 5, 1876. Fellow musicians and singers were universal in their praise of Jackson, most calling him "the greatest". Jackson also wrote many original tunes, a number of which he sold rights to for a few dollars or were simply stolen from him; some of the old time New Orleans musicians said that some well known Tin Pan Alley pop tunes of the era were actually written by Jackson. Jackson dressed himself with a pearl gray derby, checkered vest, ascot tie with a diamond stickpin, with sleeve garters on his arms to hold up his cuffs as he played. This became a standard outfit for ragtime and barrelhouse pianists; as one commented "If you can't play like Tony Jackson, at least you can look like him". One of the few tunes published with Jackson's name on it, "Pretty Baby" came out in 1916, although he was remembered performing the song before he left New Orleans. The original lyrics of "Pretty Baby" were said to refer to his male lover of the time. Jackson unfortunately never recorded.

That's a shortened version of the Wikipedia entry. It doesn't say much more than that. There's a separate entry for Pretty baby, and a history of the song here (scroll down), with particular reference to how the names of others got on the credits but apparently don't really belong there.

Finding more info about Tony Jackson and any other songs he wrote isn't easy. I found this great image of a piece of sheet music, I believe from the same year as Pretty Baby, 1916, with lovely cover illo currently at an online Antique sale..

The most comprehensive account of the man I know of is Martin Williams' three pages on him in Jazz masters of New Orleans, 1967, which at least gives us a few other song titles: Baby, I'd love to steal you, When Your troubles will be mine, Some sweet day (louis Armstrong recorded this in 1933, but retrieving a lyric from a Satchmo performance is often impossible; he scats through at least one verse), Such a Pretty thing, and The Naked Dance (a bagnio specialty remembered and played by Jelly Roll Morton during his Library of Congress recordings)

There's also Michigan Water Blues, which has been recorded by several performers of late I think (Michigan water tastes like sherry wine, Misissippi water tastes like turpentine,) and the anecdote about politician Kenneth Keating who said (1959) 'Mr President, i should like to offer a small historical footnote to the current debate with respect to the Lake Michigan water-diversion bill. Frankly, I do not know at this point whether Michigan water tastes like sherry wine, but even if it should, that would still be no justification for diverting it to the Chicago sewer system'

Long time readers of this blog will smirk with amusement as I include this last bit, history's inevitable mockery appended to an obscure artist's meagre biography, "Jackson's death at forty-five in april 1921 was rather bizarre, the result of a seizure of eight weeks of the hiccups which the efforts of doctors could not relieve."


Monday 5 November 2007

Old photos

I came across this old photo the other day. It's of me and Pete Mullins and was taken by Randy Stradley at a Sydney convention fourteen years ago in 1993, around the the time Pete started working with me regularly.

Pete had been picking up a few art jobs around the place including drawing a few books for Revolutionary comics such as this one:

The Revolutionary story is more interesting than any of their actual books, and you can find the short version here and here. Even shorter, Publisher Todd Loren put out unofficial biographies of famous individuals and rock bands and got sued every which way by the likes of Bon Jovi and Motley Crue.
I remember quite well the day Pete came round and said he thought he was going to have trouble getting paid for a certain job, perhaps the one above. And I said, give me the details and we'll see what we can do, as I liked to pass myself off as somebody who knew a thing or two. He said 'my publisher just got murdered.'
I had no answer.
Even the FBI had no answers: In June 1992, at the age of 32, Loren was found stabbed to death in his San Diego condo. The case remains unsolved, although some people suspect spree killer Andrew Cunanan. The FBI later investigated and ruled out Cunanan's involvement.
Here's another cover by Pete. This one is dated Sept 1993.

Lots more by me and Pete under the label Bacchus.

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Sunday 4 November 2007


to Eddie Campbell senior.
seen here in a story from 1985 long out of print.

However the words have become a catchphrase in this house and at least once a week somebody says "who's been swipin' lumps aff the cheese" in the best Scottish accent they can muster, which is usually as good as the real thing.