Archive for December, 2008

What Else Can One Say?

-besides, “Bill Murray is a God.”


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Andrew Sullivan reminded me of this: Bowie and Crosby singing “Little Drummer Boy.” I’m hard pressed to think of two voices that sound better together. Maybe Emmylou Harris and Neil Young doing “Wrecking Ball.”

Even the cheesy pre-song banter seems heartfelt and genuine:

Matthew Ryan also does a great version of this song, but it’s much darker. Matthew’s version sounds like Jacob Marley beating his chains in an alley in penance for every man he’s ever cheated. Or at least it sounds like that to me. It’s a haunted, beautiful version.

I have no idea where Carl’s at with the panels. Trying not to bug him.

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Getting close to the end of my viewing of Deadwood. The other night, I watched the Leviathan Smiles episode, which was about as close as I come to being overcome by the writing and execution of film. It made me jealous of David Milch’s talent, despairing of not being able to write like that, and sad that I’m almost out of episodes to watch. Which is my cynical Irish way of saying I loved it.

David Milch makes me feel like Saul on the Road to Damascus: watching Deadwood reveals to me what art can and should be. And, according to Milch in this Tavis Smiley interview, provides further evidence of the artist as vessel and, in the best of respects, hopefully egoless and attentive to The Voice.

Here’s a typically brilliant Milch exhange: George Hearst (played by Gerald McRaney) threatens A.W. Merrick (portrayed by Jeffrey Jones) after Merrick has published an embarrassing letter to Hearst from the Sheriff:

George Hearst: I’m to take you for majestically neutral?
Merrick: I’d make the less exalted claim, as a journalist, of keeping my opinions to myself.
George Hearst: You are less majestically neutral than cloaking your cowardice in principle?
Merrick: I can only answer perhaps, Mr. Hearst, events have not yet disclosed to me all that I am.

Good Lord, that’s writing. Events have not yet disclosed to me all that I am. Humbleness, philosophy on predeterminism, quiet yet terrified dignity in the face of tyranny, all in one sentence. Wow.

God, I hate him.

On Kenwoode: Sending more panels out to Carl tonight. He should be finished with panels 3 and 4 soon, and I’m gonna be finishing panels 5 and 6 tonight (the ones I’ll “ship”) and will keep working over my Christmas break.

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I realize that a. the following blog has nothing to do with art or Kenwoode and b. this is usually the type of post associated with Zen Habits and the like, but man, the media is bumming me out today. I would link to the culprits, but I’ll spare you the slaughter.

In dealing with the threat of possible economic collapse (which I choose to believe will not happen, but I have no illusions things aren’t gonna get worse before they get better), I have a couple of suggestions to shield yourself from the daily negative psychic onslaught of the Main Stream Media and such:

1. Watch the Colbert Report. I can’t really describe it adequately, but Colbert just has a… joy about him. I just watch him and think, “He’s a Believer.” His Truth to Power, his underlying kindness and decency, his attitude that speaks to me (and I admit I could very well be projecting here), “No matter how bad it gets, God is with us.” He seems a Roman Catholic in the purest and most admirable form: A Christian who seems to just really get the entire picture of Jesus- a loving, fearless radical.

And I don’t even consider myself a Roman Catholic, or even a Christian. If anything, I’m a woeful failure of a shell of a man attempting at times to impersonate a Christian (when it’s convenient). But the admiration stands.

2. Remember, very soon we will again have an adult in the White House. A brilliant, moral (I hope), potentially transformative figure who won’t have clandestine meetings with energy companies which cause our prices to psychotically rise during his tenure only. (And don’t bring that “supply and demand” bullshit towards my hoop, ’cause I’ll Mutumbo that weak sauce right out the arena. It explains a small percentage. But Occam’s Razor causes me to ask “cui bono?” And the answer ain’t pretty.)

3. Watch less TV. Go online less, and when you do, make it productive. It’s amazing how much this helps me stay positive.

4. Appreciate what you have. Save that food instead of throwing it away. Don’t waste money on bullshit. Call your friends instead of Eviting or texting them. Write a letter to your parents. Today.

5. Ask “How Can I Help?” If the Chicken Littles are even a quarter correct, we’re in for a rough road. Look out for each other. Check in on people. Cook meals for your loved ones. Think of ways you can give. Let’s go back to being citizens, and stop being the fatted calf consumers that these bastards have tried to make Americans into. Dignity, giving, empathy.

Lastly, remember that Americans are the people who traveled seas for months to flee famine. They brought down the British Lion. They marched in the streets for liberty and freedom. They risked deserts and barbed-wire to work as gardeners. A great number of the people who are lucky enough to live here were the bravest and most industrious people of their respective cultures. This is not to disparage any other country. It is simple to remind us that we’ve survived worse. We’ll get through this.

My apologies for the sermon. More for myself than anyone else.

Gotta stay positive!

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I just finished watching Steamboy about 4 days ago. After sitting on the dvd for at least a year.

An excellent description, which pretty much nails the uncomfortable place that it put me in: I hate feeling (the way new Disney movies so often make me) that extraordinary talent has been in service of mediocre (or committee) art/story direction. The follow through on Steamboy was first rate, and the designs, backgrounds, pallette, everything about the industrial revolution setting was gorgeous. So why did the multiple endings feel so tedious (and even painful, when you think about how much work went into them)? And why does the story leave you ultimately so empty?

For starters, I think it bears pointing out that this is Otomo, not Miyazaki. Miyazaki is an accolyte of the Campbell school. Otomo’s most successful work owes itself to a stunning studio follow-through, surrounding a sort of foxhole romance formed in the midst of chaos. (hmmm…)

Everything about the romantic story is half-assed. We are invited to scorn Scarlett for being a contemptable priss until she is the only living human being of breeding age within nautical miles of Ray. Then we really want her to live, right?

What they did right: I loves me a David Seagal-esque plot reversal (surprise! your surrogate Dad is an asshole too) Oh, the disillusionment! (I’m being a dick — I thought that was a great reveal)

What they did wrong: everyone Ray had come to previously trust is a corrupt POS. Ray’s crazy unibomber grampa is the only voice of reason. Is he really right? Demolishing every other allegorical point of view without replacing it with something –anything– is pretty damned nihilistic for 1880.

What I found amusing: how many times can you steam-punk’t Star Wars in one movie? Luke, Leia, Vader(x2), Obi-Wan. Of course a steam-powered Death Star posing the same question — will the machinery of industry serve mankind or enslave it? (in Star Wars the Death Star was a metaphor for State, but close e-fucking-nough)

Rarely does a movie fail in such similar ways as it’s characters do. MORE PRESSURE! I DON’T CARE! DIVERT ALL VALVES TO TECHNOBABBLE!

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Finally Netflixed Steamboy, Katsuhiro Otomo‘s stunning anime picture.  I’m of two minds about it: It’s visually staggering. The London Exhibition, the sheer imagining of the visuals, the alternate reality, all overwhelming.  But I couldn’t help feel as if there was something missing. According to Wikipedia, it’s the the most expensive full length Japanese animated movie ever made. After watching it, I felt a lot like I feel after watching a Tim Burton movie: artistically shellshocked, in awe of the vision and craft, but absolutely uninvested in the story and emotional center of the film.

What’s the deal with animation? Why can’t they figure it out? Gaiman, Sim, Miller and Moore(and many others) elevated comics, why can’t anyone but Pixar and early Disney make me give a shit? When the credits rolled after Wall-E, and that great Peter Gabriel song came on, I was moved. (Of course, I’m a HUGE PG mark, so that may’ve infected me.) Watch Lady and the Tramp; it’s unbelievably atmospheric and beautiful.

The point I’m trying to make is this: How come there can’t be animated adult narratives that don’t try and be all things to all people? An animated Sopranos? Something that pushes the envelope. This was even my complaint with Lord of the Rings: They just had to shoehorn that goddamned Arwen narrative in there, didn’t they? Had to add that trite romantic sublot. It didn’t work.

If I can agree that Tom Bombadil wouldn’t have worked in the film (and doesn’t really work in the novels), can’t we agree that no one gives a shit about Liv Tyler? And I like Liv Tyler as an actress. She did about as good as anyone could’ve done with an extraneous subplot. But Tolkein didn’t write it, and it sticks out like a gangrene thumb.

Like Carl, I’m watching The Wire. I’m on Season Three. Like the Sopranos, like Deadwood (still my favorite), it’s sublime, uncompromising, and a work of art. People love it. They rent it, they buy it. Although it didn’t get the audience it deserved on HBO, it will eventually get the audience through word-of-mouth rentals, downloads and DVD purchases. It will live on. It’s too good not to. What TV and Film execs always fail to realize is that when you swing from the heart, you always connect with someone. (How many people do you think actually are passionate owning Everybody Loves Raymond on DVD? On second thought, don’t answer that- I may not want to know.)  All I’m asking is that someone make an animated film or series that doesn’t talk down to me, and challenges me the way the aforementioned series do.

Too much to ask? Probably. At least I’ll have South Park, which keeps going from strength to strength.

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Since Carl refuses to actually read emails, he has taken to adding snarky comments on the pages. I have sent him both the UN and PW. I have called him.

Still, he remains: The Lord of Snark.

Below, a trailer for the game TRINE. Man, that looks fun, in that “Commando/Gauntlet”-way. For those of you too young to know of this “Gauntlet,” eat it.

Seriously. Eat. It.

Go ahead.

Not kidding.

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I got an email last night from Carl. It read, in essence, “Got the panels. Inking tomorrow night. New England is crazy. Stop.”

That’ll do, pig.

I’m sending another page off to him tonight, so our recent work should cross each other in Ted Steven’s System of Tubes. I sent off the 3rd draft of the script to a couple of friends of mine in LA last night, a producer and a writer on a network show, asking ’em for feedback.

Apropos of nothing, here’s a video of Robyn Hitchcock covering Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet” with John Paul Jones (yes, that John Paul Jones). It’s pretty remarkable.

Goddamn, I love Robyn Hitchcock. I have an old cassette bootleg of Robyn Hitchcock playing the Fine Line in Minneapolis duped from my roommate at the time. It’s from the “Eye” Tour, and Robyn introduces “Queen Elvis” by saying, “This is about the descent into stardom.” Which is about as apt a description of becoming famous as I’ve ever heard: a Faustian bargain, best viewed with Clooney-esque bemusement.

Anyway, enjoy:

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