Posts Tagged ‘real life’

The Boiled Leather Audio Hour Episode 70!

December 31, 2017

The Impact of Ice and Fire

For our very special 70th episode of the podcast, and our lucky 13th installment of 2017, BLAH is going big! In this freewheeling, wide-ranging episode, Sean & Stefan trace the effects of A Song of Ice and Fire (and Game of Thrones) on our lives, our minds, and our world. How has ASoIaF shaped your illustrious co-hosts’ thinking on art and literature? How can it help us understand the simultaneous rise of the New Golden Age of Television and nerd culture, including nerd culture’s toxic elements as well as its positive ones? Where would each of us be without it? The answers to all these questions and many more await you in the grand finale of our three-part holiday special!


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The 10 Best TV Episodes of 2017: ‘Girls’

December 11, 2017

When 2017 lies dead and buried in the ground, “Separate the art from the artist” will be chiseled on its tombstone. But what will we find in the grave?

If it’s the idea that creators are shielded from scrutiny by the strength of their creations, then goodbye and good riddance. For too long, sexual predators in entertainment and media triple-axled their way across the thin ice of “open secrets,” their safety ensured by power. (Why, one of these men even became president!) The crack, the splash and the final desperate glug-glug-glugs were long overdue.

If we’re lucky, though, this year of revelation and reckoning will force a deeper reexamination of our desire to see artists and their art as identical, because that dull blade of interpretation cuts both ways. Like a bizarro Louis C.K., whose professional accolades protected his personal reputation, Lena Dunham is a multi-hyphenate auteur whose detractors see her history of poor attempts to address urgent issues offscreen and take it that her art is similarly inept. The best way to argue against this clumsy conflation is by example – and “American Bitch” is as good an example as it gets. The third episode of Girls‘ sixth and final season, what’s arguably the series’ finest (half-)hour attacks the creator/creation dichotomy with funny, frightening ferocity. This parable about abusive artists doubles as case for its own artist’s singular skill as an observer of moral failure … including her own.

I wrote an essay about Girls’ “American Bitch” for Rolling Stone. This is just the first in a series of deep dives by the usual murderers’ row of RS writers. Stay tuned!

I Quit Twitter

December 1, 2017

Like, for real. I haven’t deleted my account because I don’t want to contribute to the plague of linkrot, but I have used arcane methods to make it impossible for me to even log in anymore. You can find me here or at for the duration; my email address is easy enough to find in both locations. Thank you for your support.

Twitter and anger

November 6, 2017

One thing I’ve noticed since I stopped using Twitter regularly is that the compulsion to tweet is most often associated with complaint. I think all of the times I’ve actually broken my self-imposed embargo since it began and tweeted something other than promoting work by me, my friends, or people I admire have been to say something negative. I complained about commenters who don’t understand how criticism works. I complained about “grade inflation” among critics who overvalue heartwarming work. I complained about an article that outed an anonymous tumblr weirdo just because this person may possibly be a little too weird. I complained about Chuck Schumer praising George W. Bush for “bringing the country together” after 9/11. I complained about the billionaire fuck who shut down a whole raft of journalism sites he’d purchased a few months ago because the employees voted to unionize.

All of these touch on my career, my politics, or both, and these things are important to me. But it’s noteworthy, I think, to isolate the emotion Twitter seems to count on to drive you back to that empty white box. Yesterday, for example, it took all I had to stop myself from kvetching about people saying Mad Max: Fury Road is the greatest action movie ever made when it’s, maybe, the third-best Mad Max movie ever made. (Now I’m doing that here where you suckers have to see it instead.) Again: career-related, sure. But my desire to use Twitter is directly correlated to how much I think my career fucking sucks at any given moment. Can you think of any other business or activity that functions in this way?


November 3, 2017

In my time on twitter during early October, an anonymous account responded to a photo of my six-year-old daughter by calling her a bitch and a cunt, adding “I hope nothing bad happens to her.” Despite multiple reports, the account was not banned. When I responded to the first wave of accounts of Harvey Weinstein’s sex crimes by saying I felt special solidarity with Asia Argento as a fellow horror person (to get very specific, Troma Studios distributed her film The Stendahl Syndrome the summer I interned for them), a handful of accounts opted to interpret this as me saying I didn’t care about other victims. A similar thing happened when I expressed horror about the climate of fear Weinstein must have established if figures as powerful as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow still felt unable to speak out; I was told I only cared when it happened to powerful people, while on the flip side I also received many responses saying they were cowards at best and complicit at worst for not speaking out. Such responses continued even after I said that I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse myself, and my responses were shaped by that shared experience. Effectively, I was told I was being a victim wrong, an experience that triggered traumatic memories of the abuse itself that cost me two solid days of work. This had never happened to me before. Finally, anime Nazis, who’ve dogged me on and off since G*merG8te and flared up during pile-ons orchestrated by right-wing media figures after comments I made about Trump’s election and inauguration and the health-care debacle, told me they were glad I was sexually abused as a childhood, because I deserved it.

After that I decided to drastically curtail my use of the site. I’ve limited my interactions, I’ve tweeted almost but not quite completely just to promote my own work and that of friends and heroes of mine, and I’ve cut back really hard on reading time, favoriting, retweeting, replying, and so on. While I’m still on there more than many people who’ve simply established a less extreme usage pattern and are continuing as normal, for me it represents a radical reduction.  It’s improved my life for sure, but that’s not the point of this post.

The point is this: After that final incident spurred me to start detaching myself from Twitter, I realized that I’d fallen victim to its business model, which is nothing more or less than to (theoretically) profit from inducing me and everyone else to write up as many of our thoughts and feelings as possible, without pay, on a website where racist fascists up to and including literal Nazis and the President of the United States of America can and do attack other users and spread their filth with impunity. I can’t think of any real-life circumstance where I would voluntarily subject myself to that kind of labor exploitation and emotional abuse. I’m going to start applying that standard to what I do online, and to where I do it.


October 9, 2017


Wanna see something really scary? I’ll be giving a talk about Clive Barker as part of “Monsters,” the latest in the Drunk Ed lecture series. It’s happening this Wednesday, October 11th, from 8-10p at Littlefield, 635 Sackett Street, Brooklyn. The other speakers include Meredith Graves, Arabelle Sicardi, and Eric Thurm (I think merritt k had to bail but who knows), so come on by!


October 5, 2017

unnamed-2 unnamed-1 unnamedBecause I’m a moron I forgot to promote the ToyFare Magazine 20th Anniversary panel I hosted at the New York Comic Con today on my blogs. Ah well, dozens of people showed up to hear about a magazine that hasn’t been published in years. I got to see old friends and meet guys like Matt Senreich and Tom Root from Robot Chicken who worked there before I did. Rad. (How had I never heard the story about the suicide prank before?)

Boiled Leather Audio Hour delayed due to sickness

September 4, 2017

Hi folks! By now you’re surely wondering when the next BLAH is going to show up, particularly since we’ve crossed over from August to September and the conclusion of Game of Thrones gives us a natural topic. Unfortunately I contracted bronchitis and laryngitis, which led to three problems: 1) I spent days so sick and exhausted by my limited lung capacity that I could barely work; 2) I have to prioritize catching up with external deadlines that I’ve missed; 3) I completely lost my voice, making it impossible to record even if I were to edit out the repeated coughing fits.

The good news is that I’m the mend, but my bronchitis and laryngitis have proved extremely tenacious, having lasted now for over a full week. While my cough has subsided somewhat and I’m now able to speak audibly for more than a few words at a time, my speech is still very limited by my hoarseness and punctuated by spasms of coughing, which in turn tire me out quickly.

While we can’t promise anything, we hope we will be able to record again by the end of the work week. Thank you for your patience — we’re really looking forward to recording our Game of Thrones episode for you!

Sword-and-Sorcery Into Plowshares: Game of Thrones’ Anti-War Message

August 14, 2017

The sprawl, the spectacle, the sex, the swords, the sorcery—if you’re looking for reasons why Game of Thrones has become the most popular show on TV, they’re easy to find. But the epic fantasy might also be pop culture’s most prominent anti-war satire since Dr. Strangelove. It’s one long shaggy dog joke at the expense of military conflict. For the bulk of its six-plus seasons, Game of Thrones has chronicled the bloody power struggles of various aristocrats and their hapless followers—while, unbeknownst to most, an army of demons and zombies in the icy northern wastes masses to swoop down and slaughter them all. The wars making up most of the series’ action are not only pointless, but self-defeating: The only enemy these characters need to be fighting is a supernatural one.

Somehow this lesson is often missed, both by moralists who find the series’ violence exploitative and “bad fans” (as The New Yorker’s  Emily Nussbaum calls them) in it for the beheadings. Perhaps it’s the simplicity of the conceit that hides the anti-war message in plain sight. Or maybe it’s the show’s unflinching depiction of man’s inhumanity to man that enables viewers to confuse portraying violence with endorsing it.

Yet the show has been true to the approach of George R. R. Martin, author of the novels on which the show is based and a conscientious objector during America’s assault on Vietnam. As Martin said in a 2012 interview, he does not shy away from capturing the “emotional stirring we feel when we see the banner flying in the wind and we hear the bugles charge”—which, “those of us who are opposed to war … tend to forget.” However, he noted, “If you’re going to write about war and violence, show the cost. Show how ugly it is. Show both sides of it.”

I’m thrilled to make my debut at In These Times with an essay on the anti-war message of Game of Thrones.

Thought Leader

June 30, 2017

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I really couldn’t ask for a more delightful criticism of my Game of Thrones Evil Rankings than Ross Douthat defending the High Sparrow

“bear witness, that is all”

June 14, 2017

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Sherilyn Fenn, aka Audrey Horne, quoted my review of the latest Twin Peaks and added a bunch of cherry emojis. So I’m dead now,

Process Party Episode 24: Julia Gfrörer & Sean T. Collins

March 20, 2017


Julia Gfrörer, my partner and co-editor on the MIRROR MIRROR II anthology coming soon from 2dcloud, are the guests on this week’s episode of the Process Party podcast! Cartoonists and co-hosts Mike Dawson and Zack Soto go deep with us on the making of the book and our own contributions to it. At one point it gets really real out of nowhere! Please listen!

Meanwhile, with 12 days to go, the kickstarter for MIRROR MIRROR II and the rest of 2dcloud’s Spring 2017 collection is hovering at about the 45% mark. Please consider placing an order or making a donation. I’m proud of this book and I believe that if you enjoy what I do here, you’ll enjoy the book as well.

John F. Kennedy International Airport, January 28, 2017

January 31, 2017

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The Boiled Leather Audio Hour Episode 59

January 31, 2017

Political Special: Trump, Week One

Our last episode isn’t even a week old and our most recent BLAM subscriber-exclusive episode isn’t even a day old, but events are moving so quickly in America right now, and have such resonance with our interests as readers, writers, and thinkers, that we’re back already with an extra podcast for the month. Returning to the real-world political themes of past episodes on the 2016 presidential election and the Third Reich, Sean and Stefan discuss the stunning first week of the Trump regime. Drawing comparisons to past strains of fascist and authoritarian start, we attempt to predict what’s coming from Trump, his supporters, and his opponents; debate the efficacy of institutionalism versus radical change; and search for signs of hope. Sean also calls for a general strike to remove Trump from office, so that’s exciting. (Please note that this episode was recorded just over 24 hours ago, so it does not take into account the fresh fascist horrors that have occurred in the interim.)


And remember, if you like what you hear, subscribe to our Patreon to hear more of it via our subscriber-exclusive Boiled Leather Audio Moment mini-podcast.

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Artcrime: What “Beware the Slenderman” Says About Blaming Artists for Violence

January 25, 2017

There is no artist behind Slender Man, not in the panoptic, memetic form in which Morgan and Anissa encountered him. Slender Man’s “author” is the internet and the army of artists and writers and filmmakers and game designers who inhabit it. Only the accident of history, in which the original posts can be tracked down, enables us to put names to the faceless being at all. A few decades ago Slender Man would just be Bloody Mary or the killer with a hook for a hand who disrupts teenagers necking in their cars. A few centuries ago and he’d be the vampire a town feared enough to dig up graves and behead the corpses inside, or the witch who lures wayward children to their doom. With no artist in play, it becomes clear how fallacious it is to pin the blame on artists for the actions of disturbed individuals who consumed their art at all.

This is not to say art never affects society or inspires terrible things. When Jared Kushner crows about targeting ads for his odious father-in-law Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to viewers of The Walking Dead because of their concerns about immigration, he’s recognizing the fascist ideology that underlies both the show and the current administration. But art with an ideological vector connects the reader or viewer to a cohesive worldview, which, right or wrong, helps explain society and prescribe remedies for its ills. Action and reaction are to be expected.

That’s different from a movie about a pair of abused kids who become mass murderers and media superstars, or music by a glam-influenced Satanist, or creepy internet posts about a demon with no face. These merely provide monsters who embody fears and desires, not a political program. Those monsters will always exist in one form or another, and disturbed kids like Morgan and Anissa will always find them and use them as the mold into which they pour their crumbling sanity or mounting bloodlust. In blaming the art or the artist, we commit the exact same error, looking for a boogeyman to help us explain the inexplicable. We’re finding our own Slender Man to serve.

I wrote about the documentary Beware the Slenderman and when we should and shouldn’t hold artists to account for crimes inspired by their art for the New York Observer.

Women’s March NYC

January 21, 2017


They Lie About ‘They Live’: John Carpenter and the Neo-Nazi Quagmire

January 4, 2017

My heart goes out to John Carpenter, a thoughtful, talented, humane artist whose contributions to our culture dwarf those of every single one of these wannabe Goebbelses combined. I can’t imagine how infuriating it must be to see your art—let alone a work of outright anti-capitalist agitprop like They Live—twisted into its ideological opposite by bigots and charlatans. I’d almost certainly have spoken out, too.

But I’m not convinced it will do any good. I’m not convinced it won’t outright hurt, in fact. Like Hillary Clinton’s “alt-right” speech during the campaign, this has now elevated the neo-Nazi smears and lies into the realm of debatable topics, the stuff of “meet the dashing new face of the extreme right” puff pieces.

They Live is about International Jewry” is something that had never occurred to non-piece-of-shit people before this week. Now it’s a sick, sad footnote in the film’s history, a slug in its Wikipedia entry, a scratch on the lens of the sunglasses that help us see reality for what it is. That’s the goal of the racists and fascists, after all: Distort our vision until everything is as ugly as they are.

I wrote about John Carpenter’s They Live and the difficulty of combatting neo-Nazi bullshit for Decider.

Chapo Trap House/Laid Waste

December 12, 2016

Those nice boys of online at the Chapo Trap House podcast had some very kind words for Julia Gfrörer’s new graphic novel from Fantagraphics, Laid Waste, on this week’s episode. Oh yeah, they also interviewed some guy named Adam Curtis, I think he makes movies? Anyway please listen, and visit Julia’s webstore if you’d like to know more.

Now More Than Never

December 8, 2016

I’ve read as little as possible of anything other than Lovecraft and books about glam rock for the past month or so, but when I stumble across essays on the intersection of politics and popular culture, it’s always “Why X Matters Now More Than Ever in the Age of Trump,” where X is always the exact same fucking things everyone said mattered before the Age of Trump. Maybe they did, maybe they do, but maybe we should be looking for something else.