SO! Not much blogging. Where have I been? Hard at work on completing the next chapter of LULU--as well as assembling the next THIS SICKNESS, which will include that, Suzy, Cyrus, and maybe even a little Emily Kaplan. Also wrote an essay on Dave Sim and Cerebus for an upcoming Sequart book, and then here's this silly thing I just sketched. Might ink it later. (click to expand)
The Sony Hack: Seriously, Stop Pissing Your Pants, America (UPDATED)
...in their initial public statement, whoever hacked Sony made no mention of North Korea or the film. And in an email sent to Sony by the hackers, found in documents they leaked, there is also no mention of North Korea or the film. The email was sent to Sony executives on Nov. 21, a few days before the hack went public. Addressed to Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, Chairwoman Amy Pascal and other executives, it appears to be an attempt at extortion, not an expression of political outrage or a threat of war. "[M]onetary compensation we want," the email read. "Pay the damage, or Sony Pictures will be bombarded as a whole. You know us very well. We never wait long. You'd better behave wisely."
Oh Jesus. Are we really this stupid? Looks like Charlie Brooker is a prophet.
I'm already sick of the likes of the "New Alec Baldwin Now That The Old One's Broken", George Clooney, intoning pompously about what we "lost" with the Sony hack, as though the United States itself had spread its ass wide for an enemy. As though we gave up our fucking nuke codes.
It was not the US. It was Sony.
Who had an IT dept of 3 people and had laid off most of the rest of that staff, who left their passwords on a single document called "Passwords.doc," on a system that wasn't even encrypted. Are you kidding me? It may not even BE North Korea. For all the evidence they have (which Wired has already explained is damn skimpy, and NK's involvement was a conclusion jumped to long before any kind of evidence) it could turn out to be one very amused kid in a basement somewhere, laughing his ass off at all of you.
Update: and considering North Korea lives entirely by people believing its empty threats--that's how it gets foreign aid, for god's sake--why then, given this worked, would they now deny it? Do you think North Korea would miss an opportunity to seem scary and competent at something? Are you that ready to believe anything you're told? No wonder you never stop our involvement in a single war, Mr. and Ms. America.
You provide the prose poems, I'll provide the war. - Charles Foster Kane
It was Sony. And what did they give up? What did we lose?
One fucking movie. One stupid Seth Rogen comedy. That is all. Sony does not guard your security you're so worried about. Sony has nothing to do with the government. Sony is not even a US company.
There is no reason to believe many others would be stupid enough to leave their systems so insecure(especially not now) and again, these are private corporations, not the nation. We have not lost free speech. One corporation has shown its cowardice.
I just found out from my future stepdaughter, who's 11: kids don't know Sony is a Japanese company. I wonder how many others don't. Everyone seems to think Sony is some beloved institution, some American Mom & Pop corporation.
The honor of Sony is not the honor of the US, and we have none anyway, as you may have noticed from the torture report this distracted you from.
Although Hollywood does serve an important American political function in that it keeps most people in a useful state of childish gullibility, easily manipulated by emotional narratives even if shot through with plot holes.
And do you think this is the first time a movie has been repressed by the studios for any number of reasons? And do you think this was anything but the exhibitors getting scared that people might stay away from the theatres to see other films on Xmas day?
Pick your battles. Get a grip.
Mere hackers probably did this, and because it was easy to do it. Perhaps even members of their laid-off IT staff, and why hasn't that possibility even been broached?
Sony is embarrassed. But now Hollywood smells an opportunity and will try to use this to its benefit, Clooney and Sorkin setting the tone. What you need to watch for is Hollywood calling this its 9-11 & trying to push through a new SOPA-like law to finally yoke that pesky web. A plan the Sony emails indicate they already were trying with other means--this might make it easier. That's why they want you to think this is a crisis.
Personally, I only can be grateful for whatever spares us more Seth Rogen films. But you'll see it, don't worry. It's not like GREED, which the studios actually destroyed. Because they could.
Because that's what happens if you do "art" through a corporation. It's theirs, they can do as they like. Sorry you now find there's two edges to that. If you want free speech, take it, but the only free speech here was that of a corporation and I do not cry for them or for Hollywood. At all.
My bigger issue is how this proves how quickly Americans believe what they're told, especially if war is a possibility. We are an ignorant, stupid people and the most childish "empire" in history.
UPDATE: The hackers now saythe Interview can be released. Yeah, sure North Korea would risk an international incident just over this and say that. You all got played.
If I'm bothered by anything, it's that this scuttled the making of the film of Guy Delisle's excellent graphic documentary about his actual time in actual North Korea, PYONGYANG. But you know what? Hackers have a much harder time killing comics, so buy the book right here and consume something far better than the Interview would have been anyway.
UPDATE: On a couple more viewings, I think this is a little better than I say below and it's fairly well-done, but in general I do think this film is far too much gossip and far too little of Sontag's mind. So I will let this review stand unrevised, because this was my first, unguarded reaction, and it follows:
Saw REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG last night. Well-done enough but I found it shallow. The movie is gossipy and (with only about 90 min to work with) spends far too much time on her ex-lovers and the issue of her never publicly coming out. You barely get any idea of her real achievement and not nearly enough discussion of her work or what it meant, leaving you with a feeling it was "inspiring" or something.
It spends an awful lot of time trying to stick a label on someone who resisted being boxed into ANY labels her whole life, something I admire her for. Ultimately I feel it suffocates her.
Of course it's important to talk about her relationships and her sexuality should not be glossed over at all. It's an important part of her life. But sometimes the film comes off as revenge by the lesbian community at Sontag for refusing to be defined by that or any group. (it's not like she ever wanted to talk much about her personal life anyway) Had she come out she'd have been tagged "lesbian writer Susan Sontag," and her work would have mostly been defined by its relation to gay culture rather than that plus all other culture. (something they're trying to do to her now, this film being part of that) Sontag belongs to all of us and her influence is much bigger than just that. Considering how furious she got whenever introduced as "woman writer" or once (by all-time asshole chauvinist Norman Mailer, and you can see this in the film TOWN BLOODY HALL), "lady writer," I think one can conclude she mainly simply wanted to be considered a "writer" full stop. And why not?
If you know AIDS AND ITS METAPHORS you can't say she abandoned gays. But perhaps she wanted to just be Sontag. (also, though it was mainly women after her divorce, she would more properly be called "bisexual." Why so scared of that word?) In any case, all that would be fine if we got just as much serious talk of her work, but there's so little compared to what there could be.
And it really makes me mad they let so much of her early years be described by a bitter, cackling ex-lover who states without regret she punched Sontag in the face out of jealousy and left a huge bruise. There was a party right after with Allen Ginsburg attending, she says, and he asked, "Why did you hit her? She's younger and prettier than you." And..."That's why," she says she replied. Again, no regret. Presented uncritically. I've admired Sontag since I was in high school; she's a huge influence on my thinking. So hearing that she'd done that to Sontag and seemed to think she was right to do so, frankly, I wanted to punch HER in the face. I think it was seeing her chuckle about it.
To me, remembering what my friend Angel sometimes went through with her girlfriends, I'm reminded how unseriously a lot of lesbians often take abuse within their own community, a real and common problem. This woman's interviews really left me uneasy.
Perhaps had it been longer there could have been more that would actually interest someone not already familiar with Sontag in her work. This isn't that film, sadly. Maybe next time.
A special Thanksgiving treat: Bernardo Bertolucci's grand, messy but incredibly lovely socialist historical epic melodrama, and one of my very favorite films. Not least of which for the brief but memorable role of Stefania Casini, whom readers of this blog & my comics know as the model for my version of Wedekind's Lulu.
It's true the film is very sentimental and over-the-top, sometimes even risking being quite silly. But I think socialists deserve their GONE WITH THE WIND too. Anyway, I like its excessiveness. At least Bertolucci was trying something big and worth doing. Also makes a good complement to THE CONFORMIST.
This is the English version. Watch it before it's gone. I'm sure whoever put it up will be banned quickly. Happy Thanksgiving!
And now a treat for Halloween--My favorite version of Dracula, by Philip Saville & Gerald Savory, which I first saw when I was 8(as mentioned here), starring Louis Jourdan. Any adaptation of Dracula will always be one removed from the original, because the original is an epistolary(told through journal entries, letters, and that kind of thing). This one however manages to be closer to Stoker than any other version. And is quite scary. Also kind of hot. This film has been somewhat of an obsession for me since I was a kid.
It's BBC 1970s, which means it's film outside, video inside. But like many, I think horror works better when it looks cheaper, and in any event they do a fantastic job with the means they have. And I actually like the video effects. Also excellent are Frank Finlay as Van Helsing, Judi Bowker as Mina, Jack Shepherd as the best Renfield since Dwight Frye--and maybe better--and my first movie crush, Susan Penhaligon as Lucy Westenra. Quincy is played with the worst American accent you've ever heard, but try to look past that. Check it out!
Creative Advice Don't look down. You want to, I know. And it's understandable. You feel you should take in the whole experience. It would be easy and quick to look down, surely.
And if you don't, how could you really understand the yawning immensity you're overcoming? How can you really feel the awe you should so you know how brave you are, how great your achievement is while you're having it? If you're really as brave as you think you are, you should be able to keep your footing anyway, and if you can't, isn't it all a fraud? If you don't look down then it's just a walk like any other, and couldn't anyone do that? But you're not trying to prove anything. You decided to walk across that rope, that's all. So don't look down till you have.
I saw ABC's very thorough adaptation of Steinbeck's EAST OF EDEN when it was first broadcast--in a censored and shorter version--when I was 12. And I had the goddamn biggest crush on Jane Seymour for a while after this, till she killed that with DR. QUINN. Hell, you tell me who looks better in those kind of clothes, and only Helen Mirren has a better evil smirk. I think I've always crushed on both for many of the same reasons, come to think of it.
But Jane Seymour as Kathy is one of the sexiest villainesses ever. And she is pure, total evil in Steinbeck, quite explicitly--but here you come to understand(without justifying) why she goes down the road she does, even if she does do evil things to get there. It's more nuanced. And to this day this miniseries is one of my favorite things.
I only saw the better-known Elia Kazan version with James Dean much later, and could not understand why it was considered a classic except that it was one of James Dean's only films. And I still like Sam Bottoms (sadly now deceased) better as Cal. The whole cast is great, and the sweep and scope of the thing is mythic and yet down to earth. This one more or less IS the novel, while that other one is about the last sixth of it, and not really very good.
So, let's see. Was Mike Brown shot for being black and teenage in front of a paranoid Ferguson cop?
Oh no, the cops say, it was for stealing cigars when the store called us about a robbery.
Except the store never called them about said robbery, nor now do the cops claim he was involved in one. And Officer Darren Wilson was unaware of Brown being connected with any robbery. All he saw was a young man with no respect for traffic planners and took action, brave fighter for law that he is.
And it took a whole week of their making war on their own citizens for having a problem with their having shot a young man who hadn't hurt anyone to even float that bullshit story, or indeed even a pretense of needing to explain why. But then they had more, because we all love a story. Robbery didn't take? Well...
Tomorrow they'll say they didn't kill him at all, because like all black teens he is in fact a zombie. Or a vampire. Or a zombiepire.
And I just think about how cops take it when you keep changing your story like you have no respect for their intelligence.
Meanwhile, now that the militarized, reactionary Ferguson PD is off the job and the state PD are there to protect the citizens, here is how things are tonight. Here are said citizens, protesters, guarding a local business from being looted.
So: I'm in the Catalog for the "Wedekind's World: Theater, Eros, Provocation" Exhibition in Munich (Updated) So I mentioned there was other news connected with LULU that I'd tell you about.
Last week the exhibition manager of the Deutsches Theatermuseum in Munich asked me for permission to use two pages from LULU in their exhibition catalog for a show they're doing on Frank Wedekind, the author of the LULU plays. Obviously, I said yes. See below for the pages they asked to use. One is from the story, another is a character design sketch from the appendix. (click each to enlarge)
A pretty big retrospective, it seems. This is rather an honor, even if I'm only a tiny part of this and won't get to see it. LULU
may not be well-known here, but it certainly is in Germany, so to be
included at all in a show about Wedekind is extremely flattering. Of
course, it may have some bearing that there's not much more of him represented
in comics--mine is the first and only attempt to do a full comics
adaptation of the plays. Other than that I only know of Alan Moore and
Kevin O'Neill's brief two-page treatment of the conclusion of PANDORA'S BOX. But hey. I'm grateful they thought of me for whatever reason.
exhibition takes place in late July to mark the 150th birthday of
Wedekind (July 24), which I had no idea was coming up. The title of the
exhibition is "Wedekinds Welt - Theater, Eros, Provokation"
(note: site is in German), and apparently it will be covering many
versions of his work over the last century, as well as works inspired by
his, such as Guido Crepax and his fixation on Louise Brooks, the most
famous Lulu of all.
And speaking of weird fixations on legendary sexy actresses, they say they will be speaking to some degree (not at length, I'm a minor one of many much more worthy adapters of Wedekind covered) about the connection of my version of Lulu to the great and beautiful Italian actress Stefania Casini. As most of you know--because I never shut up about it in interviews--I based my version visually, and to some degree spiritually, on Casini. Not precisely--I think I only relied on photoref directly for one or two panels--but just attempting to catch something of her look and attitude, imagining how she might have played the part. I even had the pleasure of telling, and thanking, her recently, and she's...flattered. Which is something I think is kinda neat. Anyway, there's something for people who think I never talk about anything nice. And looks as though all that money I spent on those years at the Goodman School at DePaul went to something for once. Well, not really. Oh, and here's the latest inked (pre-lettering & greys) page of the next chapter.
Update: just got the exhibition catalog. Very nice, big book, and I'm on 2.5 pages of it I can't read, because it's in German! But a great honor nevertheless. Also nice to be right next to Guido Crepax in the book.
Artemis 2005-2014 Many of you might recall my cat Artemis, whom I've posted about here from time to time. Some of you were kind enough to help me financially to get her to a vet during my long period of unemployment a little while back. (and again, thanks to each of you)
So I should tell you that last Monday, Artemis died after a month's illness, starting with a mysterious lump appearing suddenly on her head. She soon after stopped eating--she had an appetite but threw up if she tried to eat, so would only go to her dish, think about it a moment, then walk away sad, getting thinner and thinner. I had to put wet food in her mouth myself for the last 3 weeks. She'd eat it then, but wouldn't on her own.
The vet was still putting her through tests when she eventually dehydrated last Monday, going into gasps all morning. I stayed home from my day job, trying my best to comfort her. The only thing she liked at that moment was being brushed, so I just kept brushing her. I don't think her fur was ever smoother. She would take no food at all. But she still hung on.We already had an appointment for her later that day, but had managed to move it up. She tried. She fought to the end. There had been more than a few scares with her over the years, some
(most, really) very recent, and she'd said "fuck you" to death each time. Artemis was
the Cat That Wouldn't Give Up. She had just recovered all her weight and fur from last year's illness, and had never been so happy and content in her life. Then one day, a lump out of nowhere at the base of her poor little skull, because if there's a god he's pretty damn cruel, I guess, and all that soon went away. The damndest thing can change in an instant. We put her in the carrier to take her to the vet. And then she suddenly died, just like that, when I left the room a few moments to visit the restroom before we left. And so the stupidest thing possible kept me from being with her when it happened. She didn't even really look dead. I had to keep checking that she had really stopped breathing. She just looked confused that her body had given up. There was so little left of what had once been a very big and healthy cat. We buried her next to Sunny. It was one of the worst days I remember since...Sunny died, really.
Artemis when she was still big and healthy, late 2012, Berkeley CA.
And so, along with Sunny just a little over a year ago, both the cats I came here with, who have been with me for years, are dead. They were just about the only friends I had in my five years in Seattle, and Artemis had been with me since 2006 in Chicago. Sunny was somewhat old, older than I had known. But Artemis wasn't even ten.
And she was the most devoted, loving cat I've ever seen. An ex-girlfriend once remarked, "Artemis doesn't 'love you.' She's 'in love with you.'" I used to call her my little stalker.
The one-year-old Charlie is still about, of course. And he's pretty sad. I tried to stop him, but he saw Artemis' corpse and sniffed at it before we could cover it. I don't know how a kitten takes such a thing. I'm hoping he's still young and shallow enough to let it pass. They had gotten very close.
I still expect to keep seeing her.
She was the sweetest, bravest and gentlest cat I ever knew
and I don't feel I ever appreciated her as much as she deserved. And
I'll miss her, hard. ___________________
Your Random UK Comedy for Today #18: Beyond the Fringe (Cook, Bennett, Miller & Moore, 1964)
"I want you to lay down your life, Perkins."
"We need a
futile gesture at this stage. It will raise the whole tone of the war."
"Get up in a crate, Perkins."
"Pop over to Bremen."
"Take a shufti."
"And don't come back."
"Goodbye, Perkins. God, I wish I was going too."
"Goodbye Sah! – Or is
it au revoir?"
Mystery Equals Power: A Couple of Thoughts on Sexism Watching Terry Jones' MEDIEVAL LIVES Watching Terry Jones' MEDIEVAL LIVES, a particular fact in the "Damsel" episode (here's the video cued up to the pertinent bit, but I recommend watching it all afterward below, embedded) I was struck by:
So to recap: if a husband was unable to perform for his wife, his frustrated wife could in turn seek redress in court, and the husband would be subjected to examination--of whether his member could function--by "respected women." (before you start panting, this would generally mean "quite aged") This implies an openness and matter-of-fact attitude about discussion of sex. Rather than some untouchable mystery, it would be treated as something as normal as eating or working, and to be dealt with as practically. Indeed, the medieval era has always been known to be relatively open on the subject, certainly far more so than the Victorians or even the Renaissance (who, Jones reminds us, were the ones who gave us witch-burning, and mostly as an overt means of destroying women's status in society). And--partly due to a shortage of labor for a long period after the Black Death--women had greater rights at that time than they did at any point afterward until very recently. In times sex can be discussed openly and freely, women usually have more rights than in times it cannot. In times when women's rights are ebbing, it tends to be fiercely repressed: the Victorian era would be a particular example. Possibly because if talk about sex is freer, the possibility of men being criticized for their sexual shortcomings is also greater. And going with that, the lessening of an inherent assumption men should be in charge. The subject of sex is censored in societies only to tighten the hegemony of men.
Printing the Legend is Lying: A Small Rant About 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE
I happened by chance to come across an old Guardian article that kind of annoyed me. Or reminded me of an annoyance, when I first saw 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE. Tony Wilson, remarking on the film: "It's
all true, it's all not true. It's not a fucking documentary." And even in the film this attitude is directly expressed, to favor "myth" over facts. The "print the legend" quote from MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE--one of the most deeply cynical classic films ever--is used as justification. Now, I don't mean to pick on a dead man here. But I guess I will, because this reminded me of some problems I had with this when I first saw it in 2003. One
major one is: of course you would favor the myth, Tony, because it makes you look like
such a damn hero, walking around as handsome
and witty Steve Coogan in those lovely coats and scarves. These bands
never would have made it but for you and the story of Manchester music
is all about you even though it doesn't include the fucking Smiths. (whom I don't like, but I certainly don't deny their importance) Which is even mentioned at the end. Just the same, the sense is given throughout the film that somehow what you're seeing is the dominant current of What Was Happening In Manchester In That Heady Time. So it has its cake and eats it too. It leaves one with the impression this is THE story, while excusing itself for its many lies.
all about just Wilson, Joy Division, and the Happy Mondays who nobody cared
about five minutes after they crashed and burned and whose music (unlike Joy Division) has
influenced absolutely no one in the long run. And there's nearly
nothing about New Order, who MADE Factory Records. I don't care for them either, but I recognize that, as with the Smiths, I'm in the minority--they were and are huge.
Wilson is portrayed as the dashing hero/martyr/fool for Manchester music. You'd almost think he was its mayor. Bullshit. Joy Division was made by themselves and Martin
Hannett. If it hadn't been Wilson it'd have been another middleman
parasite. Wilson was important and was good to his bands, but let's
remember the film is a self-admitted prolonged piece of egomaniacal
puffery, and, like all Michael Winterbottom films, is
shallow as a puddle while posing as intellectual and postmodern. It's not a bad film, as a film, if you're just looking for something entertaining. But it poses as more.
I would also venture that the myth is what people already know. Why not surprise us instead with what happened? Surely that was sometimes interesting.
Your Random UK Comedy for Today #17: Peter Cook/Dudley Moore- "The Making of a Movie" (1970) A classic parody of just about every British period drama film of the late 60s, including BECKET, ANNE OF A THOUSAND DAYS, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, etc. And a rare clip, because this is the little that survives from Peter Cook & Dudley Moore's show NOT ONLY...BUT ALSO, most of which was erased by the BBC, along with a lot of other archive material, for reasons too low for understanding.
Rik Mayall 1958-2014: A Few Favorites to Remember Him By One of the--no exaggeration--titans of British comedy, and one of the funniest men of the last 30 years, Rik Mayall, has died, and I am sad we will see the People's Poet never again.
(did you notice the WARRIOR cameo?)
Without Rik Mayall much of the comedy you know from Britain since the 80s might never have happened. You owe him far more than you know. And again: Mayall was pretty much always funny. ALWAYS. Humor sweated from him.
Most people today will probably be posting more YOUNG ONES material. So I'm posting this stuff instead. First, one that most Americans may not know, with Ade Edmondson: THE DANGEROUS BROTHERS. I think this is every sketch.
Then a character many might not know was Rik Mayall: Lord Flashheart. Don't look at him too long, ladies, or you may end up pregnant.
Rest in peace. It's a cliche, but 56 really is way too soon, especially given he'd already cheated death in 1998. At this writing they haven't said how he died. But no matter how, very sad.
In what was at the time basically a theocracy, the Catholic Church having power to do as it liked. Ireland's history is an example of how that looks when that happens. First some ranting. At first I assumed the church had at least baptized these children--I assumed that all the Church really cared about was more souls for heaven--but actually, no--that would necessitate records, you see. The Church is even colder and more horrible than I thought. They didn't even bother. They didn't care. The children born in these places and taken from their mothers--who were sentenced to indentured servitude to the Church as penance--were starved in open sight of everyone. It's just nobody cared to stop it. They were isolated, abused, neglected, starved and allowed to die, and then treated no better than garbage, and from a Catholic POV, the nuns condemned each of these children to Hell. Not something I believe in, but they do. And they did so, knowingly. Children that even from the harshest point of view were guilty of nothing. Show me how much more evil you can get. And the Church thinks it can't be blamed for this. Why does the Catholic Church think it still has special legal rights and the world requires the Church's consent to prosecute it? Becket is dead , his rapist-shielding head is still split in half, and the Middle Ages were over long, long ago. The Church is standing on the same ground as us all and is just as culpable as any of us would be. Oh, and this site was originally discovered in 1972. Only now are the cops interested. But it was known. There are many more. It was known, all along. The sites were called "angel plots." As far as I'm concerned, the Catholic Church is an irrevocably corrupt organization that seems best at committing, aiding and hiding evil, and I wouldn't cry if the bastards were sued and/or prosecuted out of existence. Few would nowadays except maybe Bill Donohue.
And as for pro-lifers: don't even try to say shit to me again about a "culture of life," or rant about your version of dead babies. Here's real dead babies made by the biggest pro-life organization of all. Stitch that. So, to familiarize you with what they did to these young women: Here's THE MAGDALENE SISTERS, in its entirety, and I warn you, this will hurt. No fucking tin whistles here.
Deconstructing Comics: A Talk in Berkeley with Deb Aoki, Jason McNamara, Tim Young and Me (podcast) In April, Tim Young, visiting from Japan, made a stop in the Bay Area during his "Tim Across America" series of podcasts for the mighty Deconstructing Comics in which he talked to various comics folk as he went...across America, like it says. Anyway, when he came here and wanted me to be part of a round-table talk, I suggested as a meeting place Sack's Coffee in Berkeley. Because it's friendly, its coffee and pastries are nice, and best of all, it's on my block. I didn't tell them that at the time, I think. Tim had myself, Deb Aoki, and Jason McNamara talk about everyone's favorite bête noire, the monster that is corporate comics. It was a far-ranging discussion and, as seems usual when I'm on the show, went quite long. I had a lot of nasty things to say about DC as usual, but a number of nice things to say about Marvel, as it happens. A number of other subjects touched on as well, including that crazy asshole who had a successful comics Kickstarter and then lost his mind, and filmed himself burning the comics he printed, apparently because he'd miscalculated shipping costs and somehow this was the donors' fault. I did not know about this prior to the discussion. A bit shocked. (BTW - If you want a worthy project to donate to, though, try this one) Check it out here.
This is just a photo I got from here of Sack's--none of us are in it. Pretty though, isn't it? ___________________