Saturday 6 December 2008

i was asked last night why I've been giving poor innocent Andre Rieu a beating "when he is doing the good of bringing classical music to folk who wouldn't other wise experience it." I sought and found and read Roger Scruton's excellent 1999 essay, Kitsch and the Modern Predicament, from which these are a few choice morsels. Do read the whole thing.
It is in America that kitsch reached its apogee, not as a form of life but as a way of death. In Forest Lawn Memorial Park, death becomes a rite of passage into Disneyland. The American funerary culture, so cruelly satirized by Evelyn Waugh in The Loved One, attempts to prove that this event, too—the end of man's life and his entry into judgment—is in the last analysis unreal. This thing that cannot be faked becomes a fake. The world of kitsch is a world of make-believe, of permanent childhood, in which every day is Christmas. In such a world, death does not really happen. The "loved one" is therefore reprocessed, endowed with a sham immortality; he only pretends to die, and we only pretend to mourn him.

...This experience provided another kind of insight into kitsch. Ketelbey's music is trying to do what music cannot do and should not attempt to do —it is telling me what it means, while meaning nothing. Here is heavenly peace, it says; just fit your mood to these easy contours, and peace will be yours. But the disparity between the emotion claimed by the music and the technique used to suggest it shows the self-advertisement to be a lie. Religious peace is a rare gift, which comes about only through spiritual discipline. The easy harmonic progressions and platitudinous tune take us there too easily, so that we know we have not arrived. The music is faking an emotion, by means that could never express it.

Kitsch art is pretending to express something, and you, in accepting it, are pretending to feel.

…work of the imagination is not possible for everyone; and in an age of mass communication, people learn to dispense with it. And that is how kitsch arises—when people who are avoiding the cost of the higher life are nevertheless pressured by the surrounding culture into pretending that they possess it. Kitsch is an attempt to have the life of the spirit on the cheap.


Friday 5 December 2008

i've been enjoying the old reruns of Maverick on Foxtel, and I seem to have gotten in early enough to catch some of season 1 from 1957. I was two when these things first aired. I loved the cowboy shows as a kid, but managed to miss this one except in an occasional repeat. It would have been my favourite, though probably would have a bit over my head for a few years. Anyway, Callum is passing through the room, catches a glimpse of James Garner as Bret Maverick and says "Hey! Wouldn't he make a good Spirit!". (Cal is currently working his way through Will Eisner's complete run of the Spirit.) Coincidentally, Eisner himself thought Garner would have been perfect in the role. He originally, in the '40s, had Cary Grant in mind, but by the '60s Grant would have been too old, so the 30 year old Garner he saw as perfect.
Of course it's all academic now as Garner is himself too old, but discussing the issue would at least leave an impression of just what the character should be like on screen, relevant as Farnk Miller's version will be coming to our screens very soon. Thus In 2002 at the Will Eisner symposium on the graphic novel in Florida, at which I was a guest, I was having breakfast with Will himself and he confirmed his liking for Garner as a theoretical Spirit. In 2006 I was having a beer with Frank Miller in San Diego and I brought the subject up. I may be wrong but I got the impression that Frank was dismissive of the choice.
Garner has great presence and has to be watched on screen, but here are a couple of stills of him as Bret Maverick

Here is Eisner's Spirit:

And here's the second Maverick photo with a mask drawn on the face:

This remark on the wikipedia page linked above,
"Garner as Bret usually wore a black cowboy hat, often changing its placement on his head from one scene to the next,"
reminds me of the expressive ways that Eisner would use the Spirit's hat, changing it from sombre to resilient to comedic to jaunty, etc. etc. from panel to panel.

update as i just realised the release of the movie is closer than I thought:
Spirit stars at abandoned warehouse (13 hours ago)
The stars of comic book film adaptation The Spirit have appeared at an abandoned warehouse. Rather than a Leicester Square premiere, Samuel L Jackson, Eva Mendes and Scarlett Johannson graced the red carpet at the Old Post Office in central London, ahead of the film's world premiere in New York next week.

Andre Rieu earlier in Melbourne:

Saccharine touches make Rieu mildly nauseating

Alongside "light" classical and popular 19th century Viennese dance music, a Rieu performance typically features staging, costumes and coiffures based on romanticised stereotypes of 19th century Vienna, with saccharine Disney studio touches and kilometres of taffeta thrown in for good effect. Add in sing-along, clap-along, whistle-along audience participation, pantomime jokes, sensory overload (large screens, ice skaters, dancers, horses) and the production values of variety television, and you have The Wiggles for grown-ups.
(thanks to Louise for the link)

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Thursday 4 December 2008


Fans at the Brisbane Andre Rieu concert were forced to take refuge inside Suncorp Stadium after the thunderstorm struck, delaying proceedings by one hour.
Damaging winds, large hailstones and severe lightning across South-East Queensland forced Rieu fans standing on the grass and sitting in uncovered sections to take refuge inside the stadium.
The concert, which was scheduled to start at 7pm, did not start until 8pm.
Organisers say they were very close to cancelling the concert as an 8pm starting time meant the concert could go as late as 11.15pm.
"The LORD is slow to anger and great in power and will not at all acquit the wicked; the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm and the clouds are the dust of his feet." nahum 1:3
(Note from Dan Best, who knows god better than I)

While "Rieu's popularity has distressed many classical music buffs,... Those who got drenched last night will be relieved to learn their favourite will return in October next year, but he'll be indoors at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre at Boondall."
Also, "There would have been smiles from fans (of local footy team The Broncos) watching the Imperial Ballet of Vienna making their stage entrance from the players tunnel behind the stage."

If Rieu is unknown to you, here he is at Radio City knee deep in syrup playing My Way. I like the way the camera keeps going back to the Italian looking geezer in the audience (is he a famous bloke?) with tears running down his mush. He couldn't find a taker for his $250 ticket.

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Wednesday 3 December 2008

Australians See
Smiley Face

Eddie Campbell too.
Australians are getting a big hello from the heavens as Venus, Jupiter and a waxing crescent moon combine to create a celestial smiley face.
Unfortunately, because North Americans are on the other side of the equator, they'll view the phenomenon another way — as a sad face with downcast mouth.
The best time to see the friendly phenomenon is about 20 to 30 minutes after sunset in both hemispheres, report the News Corporation's Australian newspapers.

(my photos. Lights at bottom are the lamps along our street. Better pictures at the link, but I wanted you to know I was paying attention.)
meanwhile: Happy Face on Mars Exposed: "Spotting things that don't exist -on Mars or in clouds- is called pareidolia. A study last year found that humans are particularly susceptible to seeing human faces where there are none, because our knowledge of the human face is so ingrained in our brains."

Best Pareidolia Ever
Have you seen Jesus today?

in other news:
'Olympic Village' sex turns toads into athletes
Professor Rick Shine from the University of Sydney studies the pesky creatures and believes the toads are evolving to become faster.
When introduced to Queensland in 1935 in a bid to kill the cane beetle, toads generally travelled at a rate of about 10 kilometres each year, Professor Shine said.
"Now that movement has increased to about 50 or 60 kilometres per year, and those at the front of this invasion have become marathon runners in a sense," he said.
The gene mutation that drives certain toads to venture from their local area has been caused by constant selective breeding between the speediest of each generation.
"Within the first generation, the quickest toads - the athletes - were on the western front and they bred with each other... we call this the Olympic Village effect," he said.
However their new legs and need for speed end up being their downfall.
"A vet in Darwin noticed spinal arthritis and it looks to be the result of toads having pushed the envelope as far as they possibly can," Professor Shine said.

This chap is having trouble separating his reality from his fiction:
Cartooning and story telling are difficult things in themselves, nonetheless trying to write something funny on top of that. Author Eddie Campbell confesses in his short graphic novel The Fate of the Artist the desperate lengths he went through just to be witty in his comics: “I found myself listening to catch ideas from the conversations of my friends and then I became a harpy, a moloch, a vampire. Anxious. Haggard. Greedy. Let a piquant phrase fall from their lips and I was after it like a hound.” Campbell professes that his life is much easier since he stepped out of the comic business just a few years ago. Art drains the honest artist. Or perhaps it is the act of being honest which is so exhausting.


Tuesday 2 December 2008

this has all the earmarks of a publicity stunt, but here we go anyway:
130,000 inflatable boobs missing at sea
MORE than 130,000 pairs of plastic inflatable breasts have been lost at sea en route to Australia.
Men's magazine Ralph was planning to include the boobs as a free gift with its January issue.
The cargo is worth about $200,000, which is another blow for publisher ACP's parent company PBL, which is already in $4.3 billion of debt.
A spokeswoman for Ralph said the container left docks in Beijing two weeks ago but turned up empty in Sydney this week.
(link thanks to Michael Evans)

Callum was looking at the Italian edition of King Bacchus, wherein you will recall that I illustrated a legendary meeting between Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore (one of many of course), and he has drawn my attention to the fact that they have translated 'Neil scary-trousers Gaiman' as "Neil pantaloni orridi Gaiman." I call upon my Italian correspondent, Nathalie, to opine whether this is a good translation or otherwise (or otherwise we shall all start using it).
Neil explains the origin of the nickname:

(ps the book was King Bacchus , but it is out of print, in English at least.)

Two years ago, it appeared that Stephen Daldry was locked in to direct the long-awaited adaptation of Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY. His stars: Tobey Maguire as Sam Clay, Jamie Bell as Josef Kavalier and Natalie Portman as Rosa Saks.
Well, that didn't happen. In an April 2007 interview with DETAILS, Chabon, who also wrote the screenplay, lamented that " just completely went south for studio-politics kinds of reasons that I’m not privy to." Bummer.
But no project is ever completely dead in Hollywood...

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