Posts Tagged ‘real life’
In Hubbard’s native territory of science fiction, “worldbuilding” is a term used to describe the way writers construct the elaborate sociopolitical, scientific, geographic, and historical framework for the imaginary world in which their stories take place. In a way, Hubbard may well have pulled off the greatest act of worldbuilding in history. Imagine if J.R.R. Tolkien, or George R.R. Martin, or Stan Lee & Jack Kirby had not stopped at merely creating and writing about Middle-earth and Westeros and the Marvel Universe, but overlaid those fictional worlds atop our own until they became indistinguishable not just to their tens of thousands of followers and fans, but to the creators themselves.
It’s reminiscent of Going Clear’s showstopper scene, a Machiavellian game of musical chairs Miscavige imposed on disgraced Church officials to determine their fates, played to the tune of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” Going Clear’s central assertion is that in art and life alike, thinking people must make that determination, and must be trusted to do it for themselves. It denies its viewers the certainty Scientology itself promises to provide, which may be its most subversive act of all. Heroes to be worshipped, villains to be eradicated—Going Clear asks us to leave them to the pages of fiction and the fever dreams of fundamentalists. Neither are in short supply, inside Scientology or out.
I reviewed Alex Gibney’s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief for the New York Observer, with a focus on how the film dismantles black-and-white thinking both as journalism/activism and as art. The movie airs tonight at 8pm on HBO, and I hope you’ll watch it.
Back in my Comics Journal messageboard days I was friends with a guy who was kind of a famous or infamous character on that famously or infamously argumentative comics site. This was during my morally indefensible “liberal hawk” period, and we bonded over that among other things, but aside from the hawkishness he always seemed like he was, indeed, otherwise a liberal, like I was. Then during the Obama/McCain election he essentially chose Sarah Palin over our friendship — he went completely berserk over how she was made fun of, he was one of those people who pretended to believe David Letterman made a joke about the Yankees gang-raping one of her daughters and waxed outraged about it for weeks, that kind of thing. Eventually I had to tell him not to contact me anymore, block him from commenting at my blog, and mark all the emails he ever sent me as spam just to get him to leave me alone. This was, you know, six or so years ago and I hadn’t spoken to him since.
After that he got this second career as a “funny” conservative writer for a rightwing online publication, specializing, I guess, in calling black people and anti-racist white people “the real racists” and shit like that. He made a ton of jokes about how Obama eats dogs, Michelle is an ugly person who looks like a Klingon, etc. This whole underground reservoir of racism inside him burst forth like a geyser. It’s horrifying. Every once in a while he’ll spend hours trolling a progressive writer I happen know via Twitter or wherever, and I’ll get in touch and tell my story and warn them they’ll never outlast him if they engage him, best to just ignore him.
Anyway, yesterday I went on twitter, which I’m basically off of now, to monitor reaction to my Scientology article, which I did for a few days. So I saw via retweets and progs making fun of him that he was having some back and forth with another Rolling Stone writer, whose work I admire a great deal. I saw people saying that my former friend had blocked them despite never having interacted with them in any way and wondering if he just preemptively blocked people. So I checked and, sure enough, he’d blocked me even though I hadn’t said a single thing to him in years. Sad.
I bring this up because guess what his avatar was? That’s right, it was the now-canceled Killing Joke homage Batgirl cover with the Joker menacing Batgirl. I just thought to myself, christ jesus, this is what it’s come to now for these people? Taking a cover that was disavowed by its artist, who made it in tribute to a comic that’s been disavowed by its writer, and waving it like it’s the Gadsden flag? Or more accurately the battle flag of the Confederacy? Just because it’s supposedly infuriating to the right people, in this case the dreaded SJWs? Can you imagine anything less macho and more pathetic than building your life around that kind of thing? And they’re the ones who think they’re fighting AGAINST identity politics! It’s like the nerd equivalent of supporting the Duck Dynasty neanderthal.
I actually happen to think there’s a lot of stuff that falls under the “SJW” rubric that is indeed excessive and reactionary in its own right. The Charlie Hebdothing, for example, was almost incomprehensible to me, that you’d look at a pile of corpses and your reaction would be “but the cartoons they drew before they were massacred were really problematic.” People were murdered for drawings! That’s an awesome, in the old-school sense, act to contemplate.Cerebus creator Dave Sim is an insane misogynist and Islamophobe whom I think gets way too much leeway about this to this day, but I can’t imagine having the fucking chutzpah to write a column lambasting him for this the day someone blew his brains out. You know? And I know that for a lot of alternative cartoonists older than, say, 28, the recent thing where people shut down their whole webcomic set in Japan because people on tumblr complained about it was really shocking.
But this? Running around like it’s the second coming of Wertham because a massive corporation recently retooled one of its properties and decided that visually referencing the most unpleasant part of a 27-year-old story was off-brand for its current target demographic, most of whom weren’t even born when that story came out? Insanity. I hope the SJWs make these moral morons cry themselves to sleep every night and wake up with ulcers and teeth ground to shit every morning.
I wrote a lengthy, pretty much unexcerptable piece on The Jinx for the New York Observer in light of last night’s finale and the surrounding news stories. It touches on Serial, Capturing the Friedmans, Mea Maxima Culpa, Going Clear, Gimme Shelter, The Thin Blue Line, America’s Most Wanted, True Detective, Goofus & Gallant, spoiler alerts, hubris, justice, and art. I’m proud of it and I hope you enjoy it.
Julia and I made a comic about sea monsters, their meaning, and their menace. You can read it at The Nib and buy it in “Deep Trouble,” the latest issue of Symbolia Magazine.
You can also follow the inspiration blog we made for the comic, the-deep-ones.
As he followed her inside Mother Abagail’s house he thought it would be better, much better, if they did break down and spread. Postpone organization as long as possible. It was organization that always seemed to cause the problems. When the cells began to clump together and grow dark. You didn’t have to give the cops guns until the cops couldn’t remember the names…the faces…
Fran lit a kerosene lamp and it made a soft yellow glow. Peter looked up at them quietly, already sleepy. He had played hard. Fran slipped him into a nightshirt.
All any of us can buy is time, Stu thought. Peter’s lifetime, his children’s lifetimes, maybe the lifetimes of my great-grandchildren. Until the year 2100, maybe, surely no longer than that. Maybe not that long. Time enough for poor old Mother Earth to recycle herself a little. A season of rest.
“What?” she asked, and he realized he had murmured it aloud.
“A season of rest,” he repeated.
“What does that mean?”
“Everything,” he said, and took her hand.
Looking down at Peter he thought: Maybe if we tell him what happened, he’ll tell his own children. Warn them. Dear children, the toys are death–they’re flashburns and radiation sickness, and black, choking plague. These toys are dangerous; the devil in men’s brains guided the hands of God when they were made. Don’t play with these toys, dear children, please, not ever. Not ever again. Please…please learn the lesson. Let this empty world be your copybook.
“Frannie,” he said, and turned her around so he could look into her eyes.
“Do you think…do you think people ever learn anything?”
She opened her mouth to speak, hesitated, fell silent. The kerosene lamp flickered. Her eyes seemed very blue.
“I don’t know,” she said at last. She seemed unpleased with her answer; she struggled to say something more; to illuminate her first response; and could only say it again:
I don’t know.
–Stephen King, The Stand
Since last December I’ve kept a garish looking tumblr called Badge, located at beforetheybringthecurtaindown, where I aggregate incidents of police brutality and overreach. Sometimes I’ve kept up with the countless stories of aggression, abuse, murder. Other times I’ve let it slide. But they’re always there. Alway someone dying in a holding cell, wounded in a no-knock raid, harassed for reporting or protesting, having their dog killed, getting arrested and assaulted for not instantly obeying. It’s out of control everywhere, but it’s mostly black people getting murdered by the people whose job it is to protect and serve them.
I used the lyric “before they bring the curtain down” for my URL because you could tell the curtain was coming. After all, coordinated, nationwide, violent “law enforcement” action crushed a nonviolent protest movement in America, Occupy, just a couple years ago. Ferguson is just the place unlukcy enough where the two trends — abuse of minorities and abuse of dissenters — converge. Ferguson’s where they bring the curtain down.
Once you’ve created the conditions for force to be used, it will DEFINITIONALLY be wielded on those least equipped to defend against it. The subaltern, the underclass, the civilians, the noncombatants, the women, the children. With “war on drugs”/”war on terror” rhetoric, domestic availability of military weapons and tactics, and “keep us safe” fetishization, we dug a riverbed. When the water starts flowing, it flows downhill.
Respecting creators’ rights is not about reasserting the magical aura of the Artist in opposition to the hoi polloi, it’s about defending the relationship between worker and the work produced. Creators’ rights are labor rights.
I’ve started a tumblr called Badge where I’ll be aggregating incidents of police brutality/overkill/overreach in America without comment.
Kim Thompson was one of the very best people in the history of comics, in every way that “one of the very best people” could be meant. He would be a hall-of-fame editor if all he ever did was get Jacques Tardi and Jason across to North American audiences, and of course he did so much more than that. As the co-publisher of Fantagraphics he was 50% of the greatest comics publisher of all time; without him I would not be doing what I do for a living, in a very real way. His editorial eye, his multilingual translation capabilities, even his jocularly merciless presence in comment-thread debates are irreplaceable. I will miss him, and my heart goes out to those lucky enough to know him better than I did.
Michael Hastings was a fearless reporter who actually damaged the war machine, the highest calling of humanity. I didn’t know him but know and work with many people who did, and to hear them talk about how kind and inspiring he was on a person-to-person basis, quite aside from the importance of his work, has just given me chills. I hope those who knew him and loved him can draw some comfort from the incontrovertibly powerful and positive impact he had on people and the world.
James Gandolfini gave the greatest TV performance of all time on the greatest TV show of all time. He was an absolute marvel of an actor; I can’t think of another performance that influences me on a day to day basis years after watching it like his does. I can hear him say the words “Agent Harris!” like he just said them in my ear; I imagine him reacting to the world to this day, like sharing his enthusiasm for “Game a’ Trones” or something similarly inconsequential, since as an actor he knew that’s where the consequential stuff would emerge. He created a human, and launched a new golden age, and again, I would not be doing what I do but for his work.
Each of these people is an enormously practical loss. Each of them did things that now simply won’t get done. A huge blow to all of us.
Only a few yards away the surviving city of Popolac was recovering from its first convulsions. It stared, with a thousand eyes, at the ruins of its ritual enemy, now spread in a tangle of rope and bodies over the impacted ground, shattered forever. Popolac staggered back from the sight, its vast legs flattening the forest that bounded the stamping-ground, its arms flailing the air. But it kept its balance, even as a common insanity, woken by the horror at its feet, surged through its sinews and curdled its brain. The order went out: the body thrashed and twisted and turned from the grisly carpet of Podujevo, and fled into the hills.
As it headed into oblivion, its towering form passed between the car and the sun, throwing its cold shadow over the bloody road. Mick saw nothing through his tears, and Judd, his eyes narrowed against the sight he feared seeing around the next bend, only dimly registered that something had blotted the light for a minute. A cloud, perhaps. A flock of birds.
Had he looked up at that moment, just stolen a glance out towards the north-east, he would have seen Popolac’s head, the vast, swarming head of a maddened city, disappearing below his line of vision, as it marched into the hills. He would have known that this territory was beyond his comprehension; and that there was no healing to be done in this corner of Hell. But he didn’t see the city, and he and Mick’s last turning-point had passed. From now on, like Popolac and its dead twin, they were lost to sanity, and to all hope of life.
”As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.”
Before we start using video games and movies as facile scapegoats for America’s murderous gun culture — despite the fact that the entire developed world plays those games and watches those movies too and doesn’t have anywhere near the problem with gun violence we do — we should remember that all of us, every day from the time we’re young children, are led by example by our own government.
* Tom Spurgeon’s complete holiday interview series is up at the Comics Reporter. Go ye and click; so far I’ve really enjoyed the interviews with writer Mark Waid, cartoonists Dean Haspiel, Derf Backderf, Sammy Harkham, and Tom Kaczynski, and critics J. Caleb Mozzocco and Rob Clough.
* You should absolutely read “Sticky-Icky-Icky,” a stoner-sex-slice-of-life comic by Box Brown. I said “whoa” when I saw this page in particular.
* Ooh, it’s a master list of the tumblrs for all the members of Closed Caption Comics who have tumblrs. Thanks, Ryan Cecil Smith!
* Always glad to see smut from Julia Gfrörer.
* This painting by Charles-Frédéric Soehnée is a nightmare. (Via Monster Brains.)
* Just for fun, Dresden Kodak creator is doing a whole series of drawings and sketches and posts on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. Many of them are idiosyncratic and beautiful.
* The addendum at the end hurts a bit because Coates in scold mode is the worst Coates, but otherwise this is a nice scales-from-the-eyes piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates about Kendrick Lamar’s excellent album Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.
* Here are all of Chris “Shallow Rewards” Ott’s posts on the Cure from his stint on the themed music blog One Week, One Band last year. If you want to read a good writer write a whole lot about a good band he happens to love, then this is
* John Brennan belongs in prison, not running the CIA. If you did half the shit this guy says it’s okay for the government to do, you bet your ass you’d be in prison.
* Very sad news: Wilko Johnson, guitarist for Dr. Feelgood and Ser Ilyn Payne on Game of Thrones, is dying of pancreatic cancer. Man that guy played with style.
* Scientists have filmed a live giant squid in its natural habitat. I can die now.
Carnival of souls: Gossip Girl, Edie Fake, Fluxblog 2012, Chris Ware on Newtown, Shallow Rewards on shoegaze, moreFriday, January 4th, 2013
* Gossip Girl aired its series finale a few weeks ago. I watched every episode of that show and spent much of that time delighted in smiling-while-shaking-my-head-and-muttering-”you-magnificent-bastards” fashion. My friends Ben Morse and Kiel Phegley have reviewed the finale and the entire series in a two-part conversation that’s my favorite writing about Gossip Girl I’ve ever read. Here’s part one and here’s part two. The final two episodes of the show included two major events I’m still trying to wrap my head around; they both leave a bad taste in my mouth, but as Kiel and Ben convincingly argue, a Gossip Girl climax that didn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth wouldn’t be Gossip Girl.
* Edie Fake has come out of nowhere with a series of gouache and ballpoint-pen pictures of buildings called Memory Palaces that are among those rare works of art that make me go “Wow, I had no idea you could do that.” If you took the castles at the end of a Super Mario Bros. level and imagined that culture evolved forward a thousand years, you’d get something like this. It also puts me in mind of the old NES game Milon’s Secret Castle, or at least my hazy memories of same. Finding out where the buildings are from only makes it more remarkable. I sit and stare at this art like an apeman at the monolith. Never saw it coming.
* Still the best: Matthew Perpetua has released the Fluxblog 2012 Survey Mix, a TEN-disc overview of the year’s best music. It’s an overwhelming number of songs in a dizzying variety of genres and styles, but Matthew puts each disc together with thought and care and attention to flow, so you should feel free to DL ‘em all but listen to them one at a time. Find one with a few songs you dig or are intrigued by and let the rest come at you.
* My wife is a teacher and we are parents, and Chris Ware is the greatest cartoonist, so virtually every aspect of Ware’s New Yorker cover and essay about Newtown resonated with me deeply. This passage in particular evokes the way all of my personal and political anger and dread runs together lately:
In the course of the next few days, I was privy to the exchanges among my wife and her colleagues about Newtown, culminating in flabbergasted e-mails and Facebookings following the farcical N.R.A. press conference. Memes abounded, like, “First they call us union thugs and now they want to arm us?!” and self-mocking jokes about their own forgetfulness: “Do you really want to trust people like us with guns?” (Teachers are notoriously overworked and so occasionally forget their two pounds’ worth of keys in one classroom or another.) What astonished me most was that the gun lobby seemed to imply that it was somehow partly the unarmed teachers’ fault that the Newtown shooting occurred at all. Well, why not? Isn’t everything lately always somehow the teachers’ fault?
Meanwhile, our government revved its engines to Evel-Knievel itself over the fiscal cliff, civilization’s rock face having partly crumbled away because a clot of representatives seem to feel that government shouldn’t be funded at all. Over the holiday break, news arrived that thirty-seven Philadelphia public schools were closing because of budgetary cuts, and meanwhile the whole idea of public education continues to be cored out nationwide by taxpayer-funded private “charter” schools in a sleight of hand that I still can’t believe is legal. (Meanwhile, my union-thug wife is too busy grading papers and planning lessons to be able to get properly mad about it all.)
* A pair of standouts from Tom Spurgeon’s Holiday Interview series: Tom Kaczynski on his surprisingly ambitious micropublishing outfit Uncivilized Books and Dean Haspiel with a startlingly frank and harsh assessment of his own career.
* The Comics Journal has self-selected its best posts of 2012. Something for everybody.
* Forgot to link to this before, but wow: The MoCCA Festival, now under the new management of the Society of Illustrators, has announced a new steering committee for its 2013 show: Anelle Miller, Kate Feirtag, and Katie Blocher from the Society, as well as Leon Avelino (Secret Acres), Charles Brownstein (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund), Karen Green (Columbia University), William Hatzichristos (CollectorZoo), Paul Levitz (Writer/ Educator), Barry Matthews (Secret Acres), and Tucker Stone (Bergen Street Comics). That’s an institution that’s getting serious about a small-press show that suffered from years of malign neglect — as ably detailed by Barry and Leon, who are now helping to guide it. Also I’m sure Tucker Stone and Paul Levitz will have a lot to talk about.
* Please go read First Year Healthy by Michael DeForge, now available in its entirety on one continuously scrolling page. Subtly effective horror with an extravagantly inventive sense of design. This is one of the best things he’s ever done.
* In contrast with the previous few links, all of which involve artists breaking their own mold in some way, this jaw-dropping Julia Gfrörer piece is more a matter of her becoming the most Julia Gfrörer she can be. I said “Jesus, Julia” out loud when I opened it.
* Always good to see new Uno Moralez work, no matter how small.
* Gorgeous cover by Zach Hazard Vaupen. Makes me wish he’d work in color more often.
* Dave Kiersh continues to post his old minicomics, which are ungainly and funny and pervy and immature and romantic and which put it all out there.
* Finally, congratulations and come back soon to Chris Ott, who says he’s wrapped up the initial run of his Shallow Rewards music-criticism video essays with (oh boy oh boy oh boy) the first two installments of a promised shit-ton of videos about shoegaze.
If you haven’t already, please go do what I plan to do in a few minutes and vote against Mitt Romney and Republicanism by voting for Democrats and Barack Obama. Thanks.