We went to San Diego for the Comic Con 2007 International Biennial. I wish I had more to say about it, but I’ve got nothing. I may still be exhausted. We didn’t even take any pictures, which is strange. San Diego is beautiful, though.
Update: In my exhaustion, I neglected to mention that I went to the Comic Con hoping to score the only thing I could think of that would be Comic Con worthy (i.e., not so easily acquired via Internet or comic book stores): European reprints of Corto Maltese stories by Hugo Pratt, regardless of language. But nada.
Throughout the Kingdom, it has been long contended that the apogee of American songwriting is found in 4 of the cuts from Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks. While arguments are had as to which make the list, at least two of the songs are set in stone: “Tangled up in Blue” and “Idiot Wind.” I’d also throw in “Up To Me” (inexplicably kept off the original LP and not released commercially until 1990) and “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts.”
None of these are my favorite songs, nor even my favorite Bob Dylan songs. I am, and will always be, a bigger fan of imperfection. Especially when it comes to Bob Dylan, an artist whose mistakes and accidents are always as fascinating as his triumphs and conquests. The Basement Tapes, for instance, with all their glitches, false starts and nonsense lyrics speak more directly to my tastes; but I know well enough that my preferences are subjective and not the final arbiters of quality. It is impossible to deny the awesome and solemn power of the 4 Blood songs. It is as if, for a brief period, God decided that He would write lyrics directly and His instrument would be Bob Dylan.
The songs mark a significant shift in Dylan’s writing– gone is the singular phraseology, gone is the unique delivery, gone is the clever word play, gone is the possible social commentary, gone is the humor, gone is the Individual Viewpoint, gone is everything that distinguished Dylan throughout the 60s. And in its place is a vision of reality, a solid, explicable thing of itself, where the people and subjects under discussion as are real as Dylan or you or I. All those silly, one line characters from the long, tedious songs of the 1960s have been discarded and replaced by actual personages.
Dylan’s brilliance is in the economy with which he achieves this and in the fact that these Monumental Works are still, you know, killer as songs. They transcend their form without breaking it. When compared against Dylan’s earlier work, they also happen to be an excellent demonstration of the shift from the lyrical to epical that James Joyce writes about in the last part of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
Today, while looking for something else entirely, I came across young men (always the men) distributing videos of themselves performing “Tangled up in Blue”. There’s a certain admirable arrogance to the idea of any joe with a guitar trying to master a song of which Dylan himself lost control immediately after it was recorded, and so I thought I’d share some of these videos, just to demonstrate that even though you might have the world’s hottest song, you still gotta be a certain hella kid of performer to pull off a line like, “Lord knows I’ve paid some dues gettin’ through.”
So here goes!
There is no single phrase more vile, nor more embarrassing. It will be the lowest moment of your life. And yet, you say it still:
“I’d like a ticket for I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry.”
Found at 2pm on July 18th:
Hopefully you had a good
time at Rito cus I
do when I go. Damen(?)
Hopefully you won the
championship by the time
you get this. Aight then
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Mr. Dave Sim
Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2
July 19, 2007
You blog post of July 1st touches, in part, on your syncretic view of the Abrahamic religions. I was hoping that I could get clarification on a few of the ideas you mentioned, and maybe a sense of how you arrived at them.
Excuse my inevitable misinterpretations, but I gather that your beliefs are roughly as such: there is a Creator God, Who created not only the world, but also a (or a number of) Demiurges, one of whom was the Canaanite god Ba’al. Ba’al is more commonly known as YHWH, and you believe that YHWH was the entity responsible for the inspiration of the Torah, the New Testament, and the al-Qu’ran. This semi-reliable source, I would gather, accounts for the crap thrown in alongside the quality.
I hope that this summary is roughly accurate, as I’d like to ask you a few questions based on it. Obviously, with the identification of the Demiurge with YHWH, you have a direct antecedent in some of the Gnostic sects, but the conflation of YHWH with Ba’al is, as far as I know, unique to you. This brings up any number of questions: foremost, I think, is how you came to the idea that the two were one and the same? Secondly, does the literal existence of one pagan god imply the literal existence of others? Or is YHWH somehow a special case? Third, if YHWH is a special case, do you have any idea why? Fourth, and finally, I think, what exactly do you believe the nature of YHWH to be? Corporal being? Metaphysical entity? Something else entirely?
Thanks for your time. I am,
Most Sincerely Yours,
Excerpt from An Interview With Jarett Kobek by God,
Discover’d in a Dream,
on divers & sundry topics, but concerned mainly with
Michael Bay’s Transformers (2007)
God: So, Jarett, how’m I doing?
Jarett: Well, I gotta say, you know, given the fact that I’m so angry about Michael Bay’s Transformers that I’m resorting to the overly cutesy technique of posting a fake interview between myself and God, you ain’t doing so great there, pal.
God: But Jarett, why can’t you write a regular review?
Jarett: It’s like this. Transformers is possibly the stupidest film I have ever seen projected in a theatre. It’s certainly the worst. Granted, I am a man given to hyperbole & that I won’t deny, but holy holy crap, Transformers is awful. I’m so angry I can’t even put together paragraphs. You really dropped the ball, pal.
God: But can I be held responsible for the actions of man?
Jarett: Given that I was raised Roman Catholic, I’d say no, generally I believe in free will. But I’m angry enough to go Calvinist. It’s your fault, God. You let Michael Bay direct a film after Team America: World Police. You gave those Hollywood bastards the money, the drive, and the audience. It’s your fault, pal. You did this to me. I feel like I was held down and given the Ludovico Technique for two and a half hours. Where do I start? Oh, I know: let’s start with every single frame of that film screaming SOCAL GROUPTHINK SOCAL GROUPTHINK SOCAL GROUPTHINK. Hey, God, we should take a memo to future historians. If they want to distill the political, social, comedic, and dramatic thought of hack Hollywood in 2007 down to a single text, they only need watch Transformers. Where the disingenuous worship of The Troops combines with a profound discomfort at addressing, you know, actual War, where they can find a pathetically inept caricature of the sitting President (he’s from Texas and dumb), where every animated media property has to speak like a 55 year old man’s idea of a Valley Girl, and where comedy is reducible inevitably to fart jokes, piss jokes, nerds being nerdy, jocks being jocky, and a jive talking Negrobot. This film has it all.
Two weekends only. Fritz Donnelly, genuine Germanic Irishman, Google Analytics pioneer, Deep Springs alum, wild dreamer and film maker:
In honor of The Lost Tracks of Danzig being released, I decided I’d go and take pictures of Glenn Danzig’s house. Mostly the only pictures online of the house are not-so-great images of creepy goth kids standing in front. Anyway, I walk over and first off I see that Danzig’s black-as-night Jaguar XK8 is in the driveway, meaning he’s actually living there again, and then I notice that he’s seriously had the hedges trimmed, and worse yet: THE BRICKS ARE GONE.
Those bricks have been on Danzig’s front lawn since the Northridge earthquake! I remember reading about them in Spin in ’96!
So I ended up not taking any pictures, but I did bang around online and I found a few images of the bricks. They will be missed. It was reassuring thing to know that no matter how crappy your day, you always could head to Los Feliz and see Danzig’s big ol’ stupid pile of bricks. But alack, no more!
Shine on, you crazy diamond.
UPDATE: Attention Danzig fans! Read this!
When I first heard that Bush had defended, and in the New York Times, the branding of members of his frat, it seemed like another hilarious example of the man’s astounding ability to manipulate his public image. How could an Andover/Yalie old-boy with a Connecticut Senator (and possibly Nazi profiteer) grandfather and a former President father position himself as a Washington outsider?
Now, after Abu Ghraib and post-Guantanamo it just seems revelatory.
Here’s the original article:
Amongst those who dubiously self-identify as Dylanologists (a stupid term coined by the vile A.J. Weberman, arguably the most loathsome of all 60s counter-culture figures) it has been long recognized that Bob Dylan suffers from a rare form of mental insanity. This madness, and madness it is, is not listed in the DSM but can be identified by its sole symptom: those with Bob Dylan’s Disease will, and for no apparent reason, put weak material on officially released albums while hiding simultaneously recorded material of superior quality.
With Dylan, this started early– “Mama You Been On My Mind”, “Farewell, Angelina”, and the masterpiece “She’s Your Lover Now”– and has continued throughout his whole career. Think “Up To Me”, “Abandoned Love”, and “Blind Willie McTell”. The appearance of “Mississippi” on Love and Theft, a track originally recorded for Time Out of Mind, makes us wonder if Dylan isn’t still at his old tricks. (Although it’s just possible that Dylan may have been in the right, as producer Daniel Lanois reportedly had layered polyrhythmic drumming on the Time original.)
With Tuesday’s release of The Lost Tracks of Danzig, a 2CD set of outtakes from the history of Glenn Danzig’s eponymous band, we must report sadly that we have found another sufferer of Bob Dylan’s Disease. Some of my readers might, of course, wonder if there is any genuine qualitative difference in any of Danzig’s output– ain’t that all just some gol danged heavy metal crap?
Glenn Danzig has had some strange luck– the Misfits were great, but what in the hell were they? A band so weird that it took suburban kids 15 years to turn them into a cheap psychobilly cliche. Samhain? Well, jeez, I love Samhain but even I can’t tell you what the heck that was about. And then, yes, finally, Danzig. Again the odd luck held– the first album was released in ’88, the second in ’90. Both surfed on a wave of accessible, radio friendly metal, getting Glenn Danzig a house in Los Feliz but tarnishing his reputation as a metal goon, something the man’s endless cock of the walk posturing has done nothing to abate.
Both albums offer a uniquely weird blues based rock structured around a super crunchy guitar sound and The Voice’s lyrical throwaways on the motifs that have consumed Danzig from, we presume, early adolescence– skulls, blackness, blood, demons and women. Then came Danzig III, an album I like, but which really is kind of metal, and then the live album/double-EP that gave us the ’93 single of “Mother”, solidifying forever Glenn Danzig’s reputation as Metal Dude. The follow-up was Danzig 4p, a great album and the most successful of all of Danzig’s experiments. (It is also almost certainly the only major label release to reference the Scientology off-shoot The Process Church of the Final Judgment.)
And then came the darkness. With a demonic host of malign and bloody skulls, Danzig fired the band that’d been with him for all four albums (and was the final Samhain lineup) and made 5: Blackacidevil, an album of Trent Reznor fanfic about three years too late. Then 666: Satan’s Child, and then 7: I, Luciferi. The less said of either, the better. 2004 saw a happy return to form with Circle of Snakes. The Voice sounded terrible on the previous two albums, and while weaker with age, it’s fine on Circle; the major problem being production. For whatever reason, the album is poorly leveled on big systems while sounding just fine on headphones.
And that was supposed to be it: Circle of Snakes was the last album by Danzig, the band. But Glenn Danzig, the man, had a vault full of inverted crosses and unreleased tracks, and he began rumbling about releasing them, and so he has. And I am here to report that The Lost Tracks of Danzig is significantly better than anything since Danzig 4p, and also that Glenn Danzig has Bob Dylan’s Disease.
The first disc is all Danzig 1-4, and yeah, of course that’s going to be great. But the second disc has outtakes from 5-7, and they’re so much better than anything on those albums that unless you accept mental insanity as a defense, it’s impossible to figure out why they were omitted in favor of the tracks that comprised the original albums.
Music may be the only artform where murdering your darlings constitutes a mistake. That’s weird, but how else do you explain it? Actual insanity? Monstrous egotism? The total inability to discern one’s own efforts?
I have no idea! But boy I really like The Lost Tracks of Danzig. This is all.
So there’s this woman in Los Angeles named Prophet Olga Soto, who is infamous for predicting the appearance of Jesus at the lake in Echo Park. If you aren’t from LA, you know Echo Park and its lake from the beginning of Chinatown. If you are from LA, you know Echo Park as the neighborhood loaded down with two-piece bands, guys who continue to dress like Elliot Smith, and a handful unfortunate bars.
The appearances of Jesus (7/7/05 and 7/7/07) were heralded in hastily scrawled fliers that Olga taped all over the city. The general craziness of content, combined with Olga’s poor English (and not so hot Spanish), have been the occassion for hilarity amongst the dissolute class of hipsters and slackers that find amusement in any expression of religious belief.
Being a collector of ephemera (read: trash picker) and always interested in offbeat religious expression, I tend to take Olga a little more serious than, well, anyone else, really. I don’t find her funny– just fascinating. It’s interesting to think about the leveling out effect that easy duplication has had amongst religious dissenters. If this were 17th century England, Olga’d have to find a lunatic to pay for her typesetting and printing, and then convince a bookseller by St. Paul’s to sell her stuff. The wide availability of copy machines allowed Olga to nearly blanket certain neighborhoods (mine included) with her fliers, for months and months and months.
I had meant to go to the appearance of Jesus on Saturday, but in the bad craziness of the preceding week, I forgot entirely that it was happening. But I have hung out with Olga a handful of times over the last few months. She’s quite nice but obviously troubled, and, as always, it’s nearly impossible to hold a conversation with someone that speaks in tongues.
Here’s my collection of her fliers, picked up over the last few months:
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Mr. Dave Sim
Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2
7 July 2007
#1. A post in Neil Gaiman’s blog extends your offer a free, signed Cerebus comic to any and all who drop you a letter and I’m wondering if that offer’s still open? If so, can you please send me a comic? I’m not really concerned with which issue—but if you have any of the Sandman spoof left, why not? As to why I’d like an issue: I like free things & I also enjoy writing letters, and I like letters that bring me free things, especially signed comics by revered and reviled independent publishers and artists.
#2. Forgive me if this is an issue that’s been addressed, but: have you given any thought to publishing a volume of the 300 Cerebus covers? I’ve no idea if cost would make this logistically possible, but I’ve long thought that Cerebus, if nothing else, had the best covers of any pamphlet comic.
#3. Forgiveness please if this happens to be another issue that’s been addressed, but could you lose the Fifteen Things preface to your blog posts, or at the least vary it up a bit? My complaint isn’t content–it’s just that I find scrolling through with each post to be unusually irritating. This kills my ability to read your blog, which is a shame as I do enjoy your posts, and frankly, I’m one of this planet’s most important people.
Thanks for your time, I am,
Most Sincerely Yours,
I’m most dissatisfied with my review of Eddie Campbell’s The Black Diamond Detective Agency. Somehow I came off 1000% more negative than I had intended and not enthusiastic enough about the book’s many virtues. I’ve noticed that this negativity is a reoccurring trend whenever I mention comics.
But I have profoundly idiosyncratic taste & am not in any way a typical comics reader. I’m not even a typical atypical comics reader. My brain processes comics as a primarily literary form, rather than a visual one. This goes back to the earliest days– I’ve memories of being 8 years old in the mid-80s, in a cottage in Hampton Beach, NH, and reading Peter David’s Ace stories in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man annuals. I couldn’t tell you anything about the artwork, but I remember some of the dialogue.
So for this entry, I’d like to be unremittingly positive, and in that spirit, I direct your attention to this post by the aforementioned Mr. Campbell, celebrating his daughter’s 17th and also reproducing a page from one of the Alec books.
The Alec books are always mentioned in the same breath as early 80s comics– generally this chatter is about the pages that ended up finally collected as The King Canute Crowd, a hugely influential romantic autobiography about being a drunken Scots youth (Glasgow’ll set about ye). But Campbell continued on with the Alec books, and the narrative followed his path from dissolute lad to actual & true comics artist to reasonably-happy domestic in Australia, and I think it’s with that last lot that Campbell achieved something wonderful.
My favorite of the Alec books is How To Be An Artist, but that’s the preference of a person throwing away his life and needing encouragement– in an argument on the bizarro world where I got into arguments with people about Eddie Campbell, I’d claim After the Snooter as the greater achievement. The titular Snooter, if I remember it right, is a sort of bug-headed avatar of Campbell’s anxieties and concerns about aging and hitting middle age. By chronicling the minute particles of his domesticity, Campbell ended up with something even more significant than his initial goal. For he gives us a picture of married life and parenthood being, you know, basically happy and genuinely so.
This is an image rarely encountered in any media. If one thinks of the (now-dead? I haven’t watched tv in years) Family Sitcom, long the last outpost of marriage, the couples are never, ever happy. If they were, where should the jokes come from?
But especially not in comics. We need not go into the depths of superhero marriages, but so much of what used to be called independent comics (what’s it called once you’ve got major publishing outfits behind the stuff?) is crap relationships and bad parenting. What other creators have really gone out of their way to document the day-to-day and show the rest of us it how it can be done? How many people have taken such an incredible delight in their families? (Or had families willing to put up with it?) It’s a sad state of affairs when it’s almost revolutionary to show people being happy.
There’s something subtle and wonderful about the book, and I do think it’s one of the great achievements in comics, because Campbell, as ever, is a master of the written word and the visual form. My basic rule of thumb about what makes a Good Comic Great is: could this easily translate into another medium, or is it so ineluctably of the pen and paper that it’s only conceivable as it is?
Need I even answer my own rhetorical question?
All of the Alec books are still available from Top Shelf. As they were issued under Campbell’s now defunct self-publishing imprint, I assume there will be a time when they will go out of print. So buy them now.
P.S. I pledge not to mention Eddie Campbell again at least until August.
Anyone familiar with Ripperology will not fail to recognize the name of Chris Scott, probably the most indefatiguable researcher of the last 120 years. I believe that the major achievement of so-called Ripperology has not been in advancing a credible theory as to the killer’s identity (there isn’t one) but in the collection of data about what would be an otherwise ignored pocket of 19th century poverty. Scott seems interested only in the latter, a just and noble cause if ever there was one. Here his contribution has been mighty; nearly every fascinating detail to emerged in the last few years has been unearthed by Scott.
Ripperology has two Great Mysteries. The first is obvious. The second is the quote-canonical-unquote last victim, Mary Jane Kelly. Simply put, no one knows a damned thing about her. Her name was almost certainly an alias (one of many), it’s unclear where she lived before moving to London, and no family ever claimed the corpse. She was significantly younger than the other victims and her body was discovered in her own room– as the others were killed in the street, this has lead to not unjustified speculation that perhaps Kelly was an associate of the killer.
Most details of her background were supplied by her live-in lover, Joe Barnett, an unreliable witness whose press interviews contradict his inquest testimony. Some have seen this inconsistency as evidence that Barnett himself was killer. This is idiocy.
Scott’s recent (2005) book, Will the Real Mary Kelly…?, is an attempt to take all the known data (we hesitate to use the word facts) about Kelly’s life and compare it against census & B/M/D records to see if he can’t find a candidate who might have been Mary Jane Kelly. As Scott posts regularly about this topic to the Casebook forums, I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that Scott isn’t able to find a match. The conclusion is obvious. Mary Jane Kelly was a fiction invented by an unknown woman for unknown purposes. But along the way, Scott demolishes many stupid rumors and establishes new facts and truths, and gets us closer to an understanding of a fundamentally unknowable figure.
One of the book’s highlights is its writing. Without naming names, it must be said that Ripperology has never been distinguished for the calibre of its writers, especially the further down one gets into the nitty-gritty. Scott’s book is readable and way more than competent and huzzah for that!
A final note: I can think of no greater argument for the validity of print-on-demand publishing than this book. This is the kind of niche for which POD was almost invented: a serious work on a serious subject that appeals primarily to hardcore enthusiasts and researchers. It’s mind-boggling to think that ten years ago such a work would have been impossible.
P.S. Scott has another work dealing with the lives of many ancillary figures available on the Casebook. Worth it if you care, although like every long form article on that otherwise great site, the layout makes it incredibly difficult to read.
Drudge in Hollywood
On Steve Ditko
From Sunset Blvd
Welcome to Kurdistan