Lookit me, ma, I'm starting a weblog. Kind of. I spend a lot of my time absorbed in pop culture and different media, so I'm going to talk about that primarily. It's a medialog, and if it's media and I care, it'll be here: books, film, web, comics, music, storytelling, you name it. Okay! Let's go!
Music: "Brown Sugar" by the Rolling Stones
I must've been living under a rock. I just found out that "Brown Sugar" by the Stones is about plantation slaves and how their masters take sexual advantage of them. Jesus! I've only ever been able to make out the chorus - "Brown Sugar, how come you taste so good?" - and that bit about "mumble mumble mumble just around midnight." Add another song to the "list of highly offensive songs that are really frigging catchy", right up there with their other smoove hit "Under My Thumb" (the classic hit about keeping your woman in her place).
"Brown Sugar" is also another in the list of "inappropriate or offensive songs that are bowdlerized and made happy for commercials." Others include:
Everything2.com has a good write-up on this phenomenon.
I wish that the old comic book website "Swipe of the Week" (a webpage
that highlighted comic artwork that was obviously - or sometimes not
obviously - copied sneakily from sources like photos, catalogs, other folks'
artwork, etc.) was still up and running. I can't have been the only person
who noticed this.
- Cover illustration from Shi: the Illustrated Warrior #5
- Victoria's Secret Lace-Up Gown, $39.00
This almost makes me wish I actually played The Sims. Almost.
In other news, I'm reading the third book in Pat Barker's WWI trilogy Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road. This comes about because of a strange chain of coincidences starting with my reading the recent biography of English WWI soldier-poet Siefried Sassoon, Making of a War Poet, leading to coincidentally happening across a war poet exhibit on a visit to the Imperial War Museum in London, seeing Pat Barker's books in that exhibit's reading room, and then oddly finding them in full display on the shelf every time I go to the library. Fate wants me reading these books.
The books start out by focusing on Sassoon and his time at Craiglockhart War Hospital (click here to read more about why he was sent there) and then spin away a bit to focus on his doctor, William Rivers, and other original characters in the story.
What weirds me out is reading fictionalized accounts of real-life people. I'd just finished reading Sassoon's biography, which was full of facts and descriptions based on research. Now I'm reading made-up stories about real people, and it feels strange, like I want to shout, "Hey, wait, he wouldn't have really said that" or "How do you know he reacted like that? You weren't there!" It's like reading Real People Slash. Man! This must be how people who actually knew John Nash felt when they saw A Beautiful Mind, or how David Helfgott's family reacted on seeing Shine.
Writing seen on the way to work this morning, traced in the snow on a low wall near the high school: Consider what you can do. Inspirational, in a vague sort of way. Well, more inspirational than "Jessica loves Michael" and "E.M. is gay" and all the stuff that was written on the rest of the wall.
Today's a link day! Useful links that you can use:
A really simple no-baking recipe for ice cream pie
A fun Flash animation involving Windows XP icons
One of my all-time favorite Zen tales
I'm reading a copy of Coffee, Tea, or Me? that I found at
library's booksale. That does it - I want to be a swinging 60's stewardess
when I grow up! I'm sure I can find a co-op job for this somewhere.
An article about the Coffee, Tea, or Me? series ghostwriter
An article about swingin' stewardess uniforms
Raspberry Gardens Green Tea
- I just found this Celestial Seasonings tea at the co-op this week. Damn, that's some tasty shit. Thumbs up! It actually tastes like raspberries for a change, rather than vaguely hinting at them as though someone maybe rinsed a few of the berries in your cup. Also, it has a great aroma to it. My desk smells like Raspberry Tart came and did a funky dance all over it.
In other news, other people talk in their sleep even more than I do - shock! Click here to read some funny quotes.
On recommendation I picked up the 60's counterculture novel Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, but I made it only about halfway through before ditching it and kicking it back to the library. I think I must be averse to stream-of-consciousness writing. I'm more of a narrative person, more into plot than atmospheric description and rambling. Much of this book was written in that style, unfortunately. It was fascinating at first: internal monologues from the protagonist with a huge breadth of references, classical and pop and historical; madcap Yippie-style pranks and social gatherings described with running commentary; timeshifts from flashback to present day, and similar shifts from first person to third person writing, treating the focus character as a narrator and then a protagonist and back again. It was neat, for a while. I was hip to denying my usual preference for solid narrative and wallowing in the craziness.
But, inevitably, the Old Me came back and noticed that I was skimming some of the descriptive scenes in favor of trying to find out what happened next, which wasn't much. It was mostly atmospheric, which is great if you dig that kind of thing, but I don't.
It wouldn't have been as bad with a likeable protagonist. I've read a lot of absolute shite in my time solely because I liked the narrator/main character(s) (usually established in prior not-as-bad books). And I might've slogged through this book had I actually liked the main fella. But although he was positioned to seem enlightened and free in comparison to those around him (students, the bourgeoisie, fraternity upperclass cliquey types), he mostly behaved like a self-absorbed, self-serving, deliberately provocative prat, seeking instant drug-induced enlightenment impatiently for no motivation that I could see. I'm not saying that every book needs a Grade-A Swell Person for a protagonist. I'm just saying that I didn't want to spend my free time with this guy, which is what I was doing through reading the book. Godalmighty, what an insufferable jackass.
I won a couple of eBay auctions and now I'm rolling in Hermann Hesse novels. It was one of those instances where you bid on a group of six books just to get the one that you're looking for. :: glances over at bookshelf :: Daaamn, that's a lotta Hesse. Anyone need two extra copies of Narcissus and Goldmund?
Look, here's a clarification for those folks who aren't getting it or just don't know it:
"Immaculate Conception" does NOT refer to the birth of Jesus Christ. It does NOT refer to His divine sex-free conceiving.
The "Immaculate Conception" refers to the conception of Jesus' mother, Mary. It is the belief that Mary herself was born without Original Sin, that she was granted grace from the moment of her conception. It's a major belief in Catholicism, and probably is helpful for bolstering Mary's high status (e.g., being made Queen of Heaven following her death).
Now, there are a number of terms that you could apply to the actual birth of Jesus. Virgin birth, divine birth, so on and so on. There are probably some neat scientific-sounding terms, like parthenogenesis, which refers to virgins reproducing (like in Herland) although not addressing the spiritual aspect of the conception.
What it boils down to is that if you think you're being clever or coming off as especially erudite because you refer to a virgin or divine birth as "an immaculate conception", knock it off. You're wrong, and you're just perpetuating the confusion. Don't write sci-fi stories with nonsexual reproduction and then graft the term on there for an attempt at depth. Don't try to add layers of Biblical symbolism to your pop culture commentary by namedropping the term wherever the woman gets pregnant without a father. C'mon, now.
That really does chap my ass a bit. Some folks will go to the ends of the earth to research information that is critical of other religions and cultures: precise quotations from Leviticus that condemn currently-acceptable behavior like eating shellfish and menstruating in church, bad passages from Mere Christianity, your favorite violent passage from the Qur'an here, sendups of easy-to-mock pagan practices, and so on.
But when it comes to namedropping and appropriating things from other religions and cultures for a purpose that serves them, pretty often people just go to town and to hell with the details. Namedrop Catholic doctrine inappropriately, swipe names of interesting Hindu gods for personal use, bust out the sacred tribal tattoo kits and culturally significant jewelry (now on sale at Newbury Comics!), take it all and do what you like. Bah.
I'm surprised that didn't end up in the Advertising Graveyard.
Update: It's a fake. A big, convincing-looking fake.
Oh my god. Oh my god! Check out the name of one of the newest Sanrio characters:
WA HA HA HA! That's the best! Somebody in R&D's getting crazy on the job over there at Sanrio. And now watch me be the first kid on my block to get a hold of Puchi Puchi Wanko Giggling Stickers. Yes!
Oh, there goes another one. Watching tv, I caught an advertisement for an allergy medication that used the song "Go Where You Wanna Go" by the Mamas and the Papas. Yeah, I understand that "go where you wanna go, do what you wanna do" is a nice sentiment for meds that let you pet cats and go outside and not suffer reactions. But did they even listen to the rest of the song? It's all about the singer's man leaving her! And I bet I'm not the only one who hears that song and ignores the ad's voiceover in favor of belting out the next lyrics of the song. "You don't understaaaaand, that a girl like me can love just one mahhhhhn ..."
Actually, I feel pretty stupid. This whole time I thought it was "can't love just one man." Oops.
In other news, Pat Robertson advocates separation of church and state. What the hell?? I feel like I've entered Bizarro world. brain exploding ... Oh, wait, it's okay. He's advocating it for Iraq, a non-Christian culture. I doubt they count much to him. If Christianity were the dominant culture over there I think we'd be hearing an entirely different story.
Warning: Minor plot-related spoilers.
Hey everyone! Beantown Zinetown, Boston's zine and minicomic convention, is coming up on March 29, 2003 - it'll be running from 11-6 in the gymnasium at Mass. College of Art. I will be there hawking my minicomics, including Geraniums and Bacon, Invitation to Madness, and Between the Lines (now in minicomic format and including the just-finished issue #4!). Please stop by, say hello, and check out all the awesome offerings!
Update: I'm not sure what's up, but the usual BTZT page linked above seems to be temporarily blank. In the meantime, here is another site with information about the zine fair.
A big shout-out to all of the folks who stopped by my table at Beantown Zinetown today - thanks for purchasing or trading for my minicomics! I've already started to go through the big-ass stack of acquired zines and man, there is some serious talent out there, and it's covering a massive range of subjects.
For anyone who couldn't make it to the zine fair or who just wants to hear more on these minicomics I'm talking about, please check out the Comics page - I've posted a list of comics available for sale/trade (this includes new minicomic versions of issues 1-3 of Between the Lines and the fresh-this-week fourth issue!).
I recently reaffirmed the fact that one of my big-time skills is being able to
memorize lots of shit in a short period of time. Okay. Now I just need to find a
way to put it to profitable use.
WILL IMPERSONATE YOU AND TAKE YOUR BAR EXAM FOR $$$.
WILL TAKE YOUR GRE FOR FOOD.
Comments on recently-read comics:
Stinz - Charger: The War Stories - It could just
be my usual interest in WWI talking, but jeeze, this collection had me
absolutely transfixed. You know how the old Superman movie posters had
the tagline "You'll believe a man can fly"? Lemme swipe that: "You'll believe a
centaur can be drafted into the German army to fight in World War I." This
collection is one in a series and follows Stinz Löwhard, a centaur farmer,
through basic training and a few later war stories. Donna Barr does an amazing
job in writing historical fiction, creating believable characters, and building
fantasy societies and species to the point where I'd just nod and say, "Yeah,
that'd be likely." Thumbs up!
Note: I just read more about the series and found out that it's not specifically set in WWI - it's an unspecified war that combines aspects of several of them, apparently. Oh. My bad.
Daredevil - Underboss, Out, issues 38-45 - I'm usually the last person on earth to enjoy superhero comics. I like 'em when they have well-developed characters, but more often than not the characters are just cardboard props with powers. "I am Zap Man! I will zap you! *zap*" The exceptions (e.g., James Robinson's Starman) are pretty rare, in my experience. But Brian Michael Bendis is writing a fantastic streak over on Marvel's Daredevil. The gist of the plot is this: Through various crime family drama, the information about Daredevil's real identity (blind lawyer Matt Murdock) has fallen into the media's hands. There's no quick magical fix here - the effects to Matt's legal and superhero careers are still being shown and experienced. The pacing is subtle, the artwork is gloomy and moodsetting, and the dialogue lives up to its reputation.
Oh, and I thought that it was great before reading issues 38-40, which involve a courtroom trial and Matt defending a costumed hero accused of killing a policeman. Then I read those issues and was impressed by the opening and closing arguments and the cross-examination. Damn! I'd pay good money to see a crossover between Law and Order and Daredevil. Really.
Alias - I recently picked up the first two collections of Marvel's Alias collections (no connection to the television show). It's another title written by Brian Michael Bendis and shows Jessica Jones, former superhero turned private investigator, as she works at various cases while barely keeping her own life together. Again with the character development and dialogue that rings true - although I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the actual plots (good buildup, less-than-stellar resolutions), it's the characters that keep me interested. I like Jessica Jones. She reminds me of me a bit, with the turned-up nose and the swearing too much. Not as much with the super strength and the alcoholism, though.Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world ...
The new sport of kings is a-coming:
Bar Stool Racing
Have I been under a rock? Where have I been that I've never heard of Harry Clarke
before? This afternoon I saw a documentary (shown through the Boston Irish Film
Festival) about Harry Clarke, Irish illustrator and stained glass artist. His
glass artwork is breathtaking, and his book illustrations and sketches are
fantastically intricate. I was surprised by how much his line drawings remind me
of Beardsley's stuff. We're talking a pretty decent foray into potential sick f*ck
territory - a good amount of grotesques, distorted people, and skeevy eroticism.
Needless to say, I was absolutely friggin' fascinated. Must learn more now.
-- A brief biography of Harry Clarke, with pictures
And on a slightly less serious note ...
-- See Eric Emote!
The Old Man in the Mountain in New Hampshire has collapsed. Man, that sucks. ... shoot, look at that "after" photo! It looks like Imhotep's "big sand face" in The Mummy!
Somewhere, this morning, the folks who designed the New Hampshire state quarter are swearing over their cornflakes.
Last year Time Magazine sexualized breast cancer, offering a cover and interior photos worthy of soft-core porn (read the article "Making Cancer Sexy" for more). They appear to be at it again with an article about women's risk for heart disease. The cover sports a sleek curvy silhouette and the table of contents serves up a topless woman listening to her heartbeat through a stethoscope, eyes closed, nipples cropped. At least the interior article had the decency to include prominent photos of older women, who are more at risk for the disease. Me, I'd be more convinced if they showed doctors, researchers, or close-ups of arterial plaque.
Dr. Moreau bioengineered Rupert Bear and Mr. Toad! Ha ha ha!
Damn, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen kicks ass.
In other news, current books on the bookshelf include Lies My Teacher Told Me, The Pragmatic Programmer, and Hot Girls of Weimar Berlin. They all make for interesting reading.
The local library has a strange mix of books. Some are impressively recent and trendy, and some are astoundingly old, antiquated even. Books on how to pass the Foreign Service Exam of 1983, for example.
I had fun with this when I poked around the graphic design and illustration books. I found a book called Complete Studio Tips for Artists and Graphic Designers by Bill Gray and took it home for a flip-through. It turned out that the book was written in 1996 and is entirely devoted to non-computerized graphic design and illustration. Sample tip sections: "How to prevent things from sliding off the drawing board," "What to do if you spill rubber cement," "How to retouch a photo with laundry bleach," and "How to position art in your own photostat machine." It's fascinating to see the history of this field represented in minutiae like this. Nowadays it's more likely to be "How to kern properly in InDesign" or "How to get the most of your burned CDs."
However, at the same time, there are two other reasons that this book will stick in my head, and they're unfortunate ones. First, all text in the book appears to be handwritten in some kind of oblique or calligraphy hand. It looks like a letter to someone's grandma, and it's a bitch to read! C'mon, guys, you can cough up for some proper typesetting.
I just saw my first Segway today! It was being driven (?) down the sidewalk of Mass Ave. between MIT and Central Square. Crazy!
The future is now! Where are my rocket pack, food pills, and interplanetary football leagues?
In honor of this, a comedy flashback:
Top Five's "Top 17 Marketing Slogans for the Segway Human Transporter"
Once again, thanks to the Internet, I'm at a loss for words.
The Amazing Adventures of Gambit's Ass
woman finds cheesy ghostwritten book about Burt Reynolds, writes review online,
photos that cause Kitty to claw her eyes out
Also on the same site:
a review of a concert with Journey and Peter Frampton, strangely crossed with lots of references to Edgar Allen Poe
In other news, check out this fantastic portfolio site by photographer Margot Knight:
If you are in the Boston area, I highly recommend making your way into town to check out the BoNE Show at Mass. College of Art. It's a large exhibition highlighting graphic design of New England, including booklets, brochures, posters, CDs, some packaging, and a couple of websites. Definitely take a look if you get the chance. The exhibit also includes a poster by someone who did the "make a poster about Zuzana Licko and her typefaces" assignment much better than I did. Booo. :: pouts enviously ::
Side note: That BoNE Show website is kind of lacking when it comes to info.
A massive fanfic story that's a
crossover of Stargate SG-1, The Sentinel,
... "I'm in pizza-face paradise!"
Bought a bhangra compilation CD.
Turns out that the last track on it is the one by Panjabi MC, the one where he sampled the theme from Knight Rider.
In other news ...
good book: Buddha in Your Backpack, a quickie book on Buddhism for teens. Lots of fun.
bad book: Venus Envy by Rita Mae Brown. Not recommended!
chips turned dust in sealed-up packets
peas to mold in sharp green shells
spuds all grey in pristine jackets
milk gone rotten, reeking, gelled
Cartoonist and animator Nina Paley has begun an animated documentary project called Thank You for Not Breeding, addressing overpopulation and its effects through fun Flash animations.
I also recommend checking out the rest of her website - she's a very talented illustrator and storyteller.
Written by NEIL GAIMAN
Illustrated by ANDY KUBERT & RICHARD ISANOVE
CARDSTOCK COVER by Scott McKowen
All's not well in the Marvel Universe in the year 1602 as strange storms are brewing and strange new powers are emerging!
Comics writing legend & bestselling novelist Neil Gaiman (SANDMAN, AMERICAN GODS) and Andy Kubert & Richard Isanove (ORIGIN) bring to life a rich new vision of the Marvel Universe that Gaiman promises is NOT a 'What If" story. But how do Spider-Man, the X-Men, Nick Fury, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, Dr. Doom, Black Widow, Captain America & more Marvel stars appear in the year 1602?
Wow. WOW. I'm doing a fangirl dance right now. That is so freaking cool! I
absolutely love this idea. Imagine how many neat takes you could do on the
Marvel Universe by setting them in different time periods?
Cyclops used his optic blasts on Magneto while fighting the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants ...
... and London burned like rotten sticks.
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