Saturday 4 October 2008

The Secrets of Storytelling: Why We Love a Good Yarn Article in this month's Scientific American. Jonh C. sent this link after my blather about stories yesterday.

Arf: Poetry Bailout Will Restore Confidence of Readers
"Cultural leaders have come together to announce a massive poetry buyout: leveraged and unsecured poems, poetry derivatives, delinquent poems, and subprime poems will be removed from circulation in the biggest poetry bailout since the Victorian era. We believe the plan is a comprehensive approach to relieving the stresses on our literary institutions and markets..."

Sockpuppeting civil servant Wikifiddles himself "Multiple personality face stealer suspended..."
In the spring of 2006, Londoner Chris Selwood discovered that the free encyclopedia anyone can edit was hosting photographs of his girlfriend. The photos appeared on the "user page" of a regular Wikipedia editor known only as "Taxwoman."
"A friend of my girlfriend phoned and told us," Selwood explained during a recent interview. "At the time, we didn't even know what Wikipedia was. But she said the photos were on the page of someone who seemed to be discussing - and writing articles about - bondage. It was as if my girlfriend was posting information about various paraphernalia used within the bondage scene."
Selwood - who asks that his girlfriend remain nameless, for obvious reasons - soon created his own Wikipedia account and complained to the site's help desk. When that failed, he removed the photos himself.
But like so many new editors, he was promptly reprimanded by a longtime wikifiddler, accused of undermining efforts to put the sum of all human knowledge online...

Friday 3 October 2008

wee Cal was watching the horror movie The Mist based on Stephen King, in which the end was famously altered for movie purposes, which as I have noted here before, serve a different master from narrative logic, and I had wandered into the kitchen to make tea, having lost interest in the story. The characters,-----spoiler warning----lost interest in their own story only shortly after and cal called me back to watch. Now, did they decide to commit communal suicide because all hope was gone? Had they suffered an accelerated loss of weight; had their hair grown into a tangled mess and their fingernails gone unkempt and they nobly wished to stave off the probability of being tempted to eat each other somewhere in the vast American desert ? No, they opted for suicide shortly after running out of gasoline, somewhere in new England.

It's a classic example of Oscar Wilde's description of sentimentality as the desire 'to have an emotion without paying for it.'

But I found myself dwelling on this other notion, that in life we are conscious, to a greater or lesser degree, of playing out a story. For example, somewhere in the vast expanse (1066 pages... I have no hope of locating it) of Martin Gilberts' Churchill; a life there is, as I remember it, in a quotation from a letter or somebody's reminiscence, a moment in which Churchill, after a personal health crisis during World War ll, says to the wife of his bosom that it would be sad to miss the end of the story. Having personally invested so much of himself in the war effort he wanted to know its outcome and not be taken untimely from this mortal plane, but he expressed it in the terms of following a 'story.'

In his interview in The Comics Journal sometime before his death in '96, Burne Hogarth retold this parable, for which we should picture a medieval setting: A man walks across a field and sees two other men "... lifting heavy stones and putting them in wheelbarrows. And he comes to the first and he says, "What are you doing, my good man, doing this heavy labour?" The man stands up and says, "Well at home I have seven children and a wife, all these mouths to feed; and if I don't labor this way from dawn to dark, what will they eat? They'll starve." And so the questioner goes to the next man and says, "What are you doing here, lifting these heavy stones?" And the man wipes his brow and stands up, and he points to the far distance, and on the horizon line you see this place where stones are being laid out and it looks like the beginnings of a building. And a lot of work is going on with some of the laborers putting stones in place from the wheelbarrows, "You see far out there? I am building Chartres Cathedral."

We take part in a greater or lesser story according to our imagination, and our mind's ability to rise above the daily transactions of survival.

Did David Foster Wallace feel his own story could advance no further when he committed suicide? Douglas Valentine at Counterpunch, apparently a writer of smaller imagination, fallaciously assumed that of the two pieces of information to come his way with regard to the dead author, that he had branded irony as 'not liberating but enfeebling' and that he had committed suicide, one could explain the other. And he concluded by rather absurdly suggesting: "You should have done what we did, David: laughed and gotten drunk."

Dan Clowes in a recent interview: " You say things that just occur to you on the spur of the moment and then 10 minutes after the interview, you think, "I guess I don't really believe that.""

On a panel in San Diego recently I said that I don't keep sketch-books and all the drawing I do is for publication. Naturally this was quoted online the next day, whereupon I thought to myself, but that's not exactly true. Every day I feel a compulsion exercise my story telling muscles, to cobble together assorted links and quotes, to look for connections and try to sketch them into a little narrative, a sketch of a story, like I have just been doing with the last 700 words.


Thursday 2 October 2008

OUR TV ADVENTURE, so far-part ##

i thought this, Eddie Campbell's 'reading' in Chicago, would probably be edited into a more compact shape for posting online, but at the same time I wondered how it could be done and am pleased to see it presented whole, even though I may have left myself hanging out to dry a couple of times. It begins with four minutes of me boosting Leotard, which you've probably heard before, in both its outline and detail, if you've been coming around here over the last couple of months. A promotional operation very swiftly condenses to a few soundbites that have been proven effective. But bear up as from then on it's a half-hour shaggy dog story, a single anecdote with a loony assortment of tangential diversions leading up to an actual four minute reading, in a single piece of unedited videotape. The film was shot by Brown Finch Films, Laura, Michelle and Stacey, "a filmmaking collaborative based in Chicago, IL; producing transformative documentary films that inspire, evoke, and enliven. The cinema is both an art and a history, and as filmmakers, we respect our calling to make films that are both artistic and insightful." They have made a documentary titled Proceed and Be Bold about Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., a printing press artist internationally known for his controversial posters and book art. (trailer)

The venue is upstairs at The Hopleaf, a great pub with choice beers, one of which you see me sampling, and there were maybe thirty in attendance. Jessa Crispin of Bookslut is the host. That's her sitting at the front in the black dress. I only learned on the actual day of the event, when I got a chance to check my emails, of the intention to film my 'reading'. The wife of my bosom had given Jessa the thumbs up several days earlier. It's probably a good idea I didn't know as I might have ruined it by trying to plan it better. However, I have noticed one or two places where I missed installing some important narrative info. But that's always going to happen I guess when you risk letting a bit of improvisation into it. If you think I'm in a muddle here then you should have seen the bigger one I made in my best man anecdote at Mick Evans' wedding, which was all about him, the best dressed man of 1998, splitting his trousers up the back at the San Diego Comic Con. Mick Evans is both my dear friend and the graphic designer on all the books I self-published. I'd like to apologize for all the crap I've thrown at him over the years. He takes his revenge in the final line of my anecdote.

two other things:
A) I forgot to mention, in case you ask an obvious question during my blather about printing From Hell, that time was crucial (original proposed date of the movie release etc. and other issues) and we needed to avoid having to redo the negatives that we had supplied, which would have added a week to the production time given I'm in Australia and the printer was in Canada. The problem could have been solved quicker today, nine years later. Even by me.

B) Before I went on, David Schwartz had read from his novel Superheroes, which is why I'm referring to the subject at the start. Geoff Goodwin interviewed him here for the Bookslut site. Otherwise you know I don't have any truck with superheroes, and that can't really be me pretending to be Batman in the video.

Eddie Campbell Reading - July 2008 from Jessa Crispin on Vimeo.


Wednesday 1 October 2008

another item retrieved from my parents attic on my recent visit. I picked up this paperback second hand around thirty years ago. I loved the cover which deliberately evoked an earlier time and illustrational style. It was painted by Alan Manham, of whom I know nothing. Then I was knocked out to find the sequel, and the craftsmanlike diligence with which he had painted the same character a second time. It just so happened that I loved Bergman's writing too. He's probably best known for his script credit in Blazing Saddles and some other movies. IT was marvellous to lose my whole plane trip back to Australia to a rereading of these great detective novels. Hollywood and Levine rushes to a conclusion in which Humphrey Bogart plays an unexpected part:
"It'll take a while, mister. Like I said, she's wedged in."
A sense of futility and anguish possessed me like sick fever. There I stood, my car fenced in by the Rolls-Royces and Bentleys of Hollywood royalty, while a woman I had grown to love was being driven away, to her death, by a lunatic FBI man.
I didn't have any choice, I had to steal a car.
I sprinted away.
"If you're going to put the arm on one." he called out, "bring it back before midnight."
As I turned the corner and ran toward the front of the house, a blue Cadillac was coming up the driveway.
Panting, I reached the car and leaned in through the front window. The driver, who had dipped his head to light a cigarette, turned to face me.
"What do you want?" asked Humphrey Bogart.
"Your car." It wasn't what I had planned to say, not at all, but confronted with Bogart, the truth rushed to my head like a snort of cocaine.
"What?" He was friendly, calm, a bit loaded.
"Why do you want the car?' asked his companion. She was thin and tawny, with sleek brown hair, large intelligent eyes, and a mouth you could have used for collateral. She was, I realized, Lauren Bacall.
"To prevent a murder," I said.
Bogart's mouth tightened. "You serious?" he asked.
"Very serious. Walter Adrian's widow is in terrible danger."
"Jesus Christ," said Bogart. He turned to Bacall. "Go inside, Betty, tell them I'll be late.
"I can't come?" she asked.
"No, no," Bogart grumbled. "C'mon, let this guy in the car. Helen Adrian. Christ almighty."
Bacall got out and I got in, thanking her profusely. She put her hands on the window, her eyes worried.
"Bogey, don't be a hero. Take care," she told him.
Bogart said not to worry, but we had to go; then he floored the gas pedal and sent us smoking out the driveway. He executed an impossible U-turn and went roaring up St. Cloud, which ran into Bel Air Road, and down a series of hair raising curves to Sunset Boulevard. Bogart stopped at Sunset and turned to me.
"Which way and what's your name?"
The above were published in 1974 and 1975. Bergman revived his Jewish shamus, Jack LeVIne in 2001 in Tender is Levine, which I haven't read. Reviewer J Kingston Pierce retreads an anecdote:
"As the story goes, Bergman hadn't intended to revisit Jack LeVine. After penning the script for the movie Blazing Saddles (1974), he'd settled into a prosperous career of moviemaking, turning out comedic films such as Honeymoon in Vegas and Striptease (the latter based on Carl Hiaasen's 1993 novel). But a devoted and discriminating crime fiction fan -- former U.S. President Bill Clinton -- coaxed him to revive his wisecracking shamus. "Clinton was a big fan of Honeymoon in Vegas," Bergman was quoted as telling a New Jersey newspaper recently, "so I sent him a flying Elvis [Presley] hat and an album from the film. He writes back, 'Thanks, but I wished you'd written a dozen more LeVine books.'"

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Tuesday 30 September 2008

OUR TV ADVENTURE, so far-part 3

in June 2007 two tv producers phoned me out of the blue to talk about adapting my Fate of the Artist to the small screen and I found myself having a series of daytime sessions at assorted pubs as we got to know each others’ ideas about what such an adaptation might look like. They were pleasantly surprised to find that Fate was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and it was suggested that the Snooter in fact showed greater dramatic/comedic potential. One thing we particularly agreed on was that there was scope for a combination of live action and some kind of animation and we talked about the ways this had been done previously. I mean specifically in relation to the cartoonist and his work, the artist seeing his drawings come to life. You have to start with the first, Winsor McCay's Little Nemo of 1911: "The Famous cartoonist of the NY Herald and his moving comics. The first artist to attempt drawing pictures that will move." Even at nearly a hundred years on McCay still charms. And the magic is still persuasive too! I was happily watching for a couple of minutes before it occurred to me that you can't draw with a dip pen on an upright surface.

Then there is the the old 1970 tv show My World and Welcome to it, based on the stories and drawings of James Thurber, with William Windom playing cartoonist John Monroe, which I told the guys about. We went to some trouble to get hold of a copy of the whole series and I wrote about it here. I found the following on Youtube, which I think is the intro to the first half hour show:

It was American Splendor that got the producers thinking about our proposed show in the first place. This image of Pekar walking through a simple drawing of a street (composited for the DVD ?), is among the most expressive things under the ironic 'American Splendor' banner. Pekar's slouch is in perfect harmony with his backdrop

And the movie’s opening credit sequence, borrows the multiple levels of synchronous action possible on a comic book page.

Pekar is played by Actor Paul Giamatti and also by animated drawings, but over and above that Pekar also appears as himself.
In one incident Giamatti as Pekar goes to see a stage play based on Pekar’s comic books, so that the actor playing Pekar on film is watching Pekar played by another actor on stage.

The artist and the artist's drawings-come-to-life. The idea has a long and worthy history. Does Campbell have anything to add to it? I find myself excited by the challenge.
(more to come)

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Monday 29 September 2008

Where kin I git me one'a them shirts?

The Cisco Kid had killed six men in more or less fair scrimmages, had murdered twice as many (mostly Mexicans), and had winged a larger number whom he modestly forbore to count. Therefore a woman loved him.
The Kid was twenty-five, looked twenty; and a careful insurance company would have estimated the probable time of his demise at, say, twenty-six. His habitat was anywhere between the Frio and the Rio Grande. He killed for the love of it—because he was quick-tempered—to avoid arrest—for his own amusement—any reason that came to his mind would suffice. He had escaped capture because he could shoot five-sixths of a second sooner than any sheriff or ranger in the service, and because he rode a speckled roan horse that knew every cowpath in the mesquite and pear thickets from San Antonio to Matamoras.
Tonia Perez, the girl who loved the Cisco Kid, was half Carmen, half Madonna, and the rest—oh, yes, a woman who is half Carmen and half Madonna can always be something more—the rest, let us say, was humming-bird...

The above represents the opening couple of paragraphs of The Caballero's Way by O. Henry, first published in 1907. The complete story can be read at The Nostalgia league, where it is filed under 'SHORT FICTION THAT BECAME MOVIES'. The story was first filmed in 1914, and at least twice per decade after that. Ceasar Romero played the Kid in 1939. It was a comic book as early as 1944; It ran on television between 1950 and 1956 and it was a daily comic strip syndicated by King features between 1951 and 1967.

The daily strip was a remarkable piece of work, drawn by Jose Luis Salinas. Ruben Espinoza is showing off his collection of original art by Salinas from the series. The most special thing about this special strip for me has always been the Kid's shirt. I've never watched the movies, so I have always presumed that the shirt comes from there, because it is difficult otherwise to imagine an artist setting himself the task of drawing this imaculately elegant detail every day of the week for sixteen years:

It is to be hoped that one of the publishers giving us reprints of the old comic strips will one day get around to giving us a few stories from this one.

update: mr j just sent this

After my post on the boat regatta on the dry riverbed, I've been reading about fish in the Australian desert (from Larapinta Trail By John and Monica Chapman.)
"Ten species of fish survive in the major waterholes. Finke River Hardyhead and Desert Rainbow Fish are very tolerant, being able to survive in water of poor quality. They are believed to bury themselves in mud to survive when waterholes dry up. The Spangled Grunter is able to move across land between waterholes by dragging itself with its fins."


Sunday 28 September 2008

the photorealist style of daily strips had its heyday in the newspapers between 1947 and the late 1960s. Prof Mendez gives a first rate introduction to the subject. Alas it is a subject which tends to be given short shrift by the canon-making pedants of latter day comic strip scholarship, who draw an expressive artistic line from Feininger down to Panter, following the lead of the Masters of American Comics exhibition and book. (eg. Ed Howard's list of sept 17 is perhaps more conservative than that outline suggests, but it's true that he includes NO examples of the photorealist school).

The contrary neatly inked line traced by the other camp, which tends at its worst to be reactionary in its cultural taste,  tapers to a point at Dave Sim's latest offerings. Critic Douglas Wolk in his review of Sim's Judenhass of this weekend, seems almost incredulous that the once-popular school of comic strip art existed not just in Dave Sim's imagination: "Sim, in recent years, has been fascinated with the sort of “photorealism”—his word—practiced by a handful of comic strip artists of the 1950s and 60s, who were essentially trying to reproduce photographs as line drawings."

Elsewhere, Domingos Isabelhino draws my attention to recent additions to a site devoted to the English daily strip Carol Day by David Wright (1912-1967) which ran in the London daily Mail from 1956 until the artist's death. Domingos is describing the story which has been given the title, for the sake of orderliness I presume, 'Jack Slingsby': Can you imagine an American newspaper comic in which "the hero" (to speak children's comics lingo) is engaged to one character while she's having an affair with another character who's married (a slacker, no less!)? Can you imagine Mary Perkins following her heart against social conventions and doing that? I can't. No newspaper or syndicate editor would allow it. But that's exactly what happens in this masterpiece of the comics form.

Here are a couple of sample panels (go look at the rest):

Wright was of an earlier generation than most of the artists working in the photorealist style, (though having said that I have to remind myself he was only two years older than I am now when he cashed in his chips.) and his design sense belongs to an earlier time. He tends to want to fill every nook and cranny of his drawings with noodling.
There's a story at the end of the series where Wright is mixing the hatching with dot-tones, the latter being effective in suggesting an attractive suntan on the heroine:

The Carol Day site is run by Roger Clark and contains a huge inventory of material that is worth a moment or two of your time.