Posts Tagged ‘real life’

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

March 20, 2017

MIRRORMIRROR_COVER

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.)

DOWNLOAD EPISODE 59

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.

Our BLAH episode on the election.

Our BLAH episode on the Third Reich.

The latest BLAM mini-episode (click to subscribe).

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Our PayPal donation page (also accessible via boiledleather.com).

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Mirror.

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Sean’s blog.

Stefan’s blog.

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

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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.

True story

November 25, 2016

A couple days ago I unfollowed the latest in what is easily a half-dozen occult or BDSM-porn tumblrs I’ve followed that out of nowhere revealed themselves to be white supremacists, neo-pagan race-realist weirdos, actual Nazis, anti-Black Lives Matter racists, Sandy Hook truthers, etc. Later that day I renewed the rental agreement on my apartment. In the course of the conversation as I handed over the signed lease, my very friendly landlord, noting that I work for Rolling Stone and the New York Times, told me she regularly fact-checks what she reads in mainstream media like the publications I write for, which is how she learned that Sandy Hook never actually happened. Her husband chimed in to say the moon landing was faked as well. In conclusion, America is already great

You won’t fool the children of the revolution

November 25, 2016

(“Raw Power” comes on in the car)

Me: This is a band called Iggy & the Stooges. The lead singer’s name is Iggy Pop, and he did all kinds of crazy things. He smeared himself in peanut butter, he’d break bottles and cut himself up, he covered himself in honey and sprinkled glitter on himself, he’d even just walk right on top of the audience.

My 5 1/2 year old: They could get a concussion! Did he wear anything crazy too?

Me: He was really muscular, and he’d come out in no shirt and, like, very tight silver pants.

My 5 1/2 year old: That’s crazy! Were you there, Daddy?

Me: Was I there? No. This was in the early ’70s, so…like, 45 years ago, almost. Before I was born.

My 5 1/2 year old: Then how do you know about it? How do you know all about these things if you weren’t there?

Me: Because it was very famous, and people wrote all about it. You can read books that tell you all about different bands from a long time ago.

My 5 1/2 year old: Tell me EVERY STORY about EVERY CRAZY THING anyone did in EVERY BAND, PLEASE!

Twitter announcement

November 18, 2016

I’ve been off Twitter since the beginning of the week and will remain so until further notice. I do log in occasionally to post links to my work, and I expect I’ll do the same for my partner Julia Gfrörer’s work as well, but that’s all. If you need to reach me I can be contacted using the information to your right.

11.9.16

November 9, 2016

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.

“What, Stuart?”

“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

9.11.16

September 11, 2016

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.

“What, Stuart?”

“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

Buy my books!

August 9, 2016

I reopened my old Amazon marketplace store with great deals on great books & comics from me & Julia Gfrörer’s merged collections. Check it out! More will be added in the days and weeks to come, so keep your eyes peeled!

“Serial” thoughts, Season Two, Episode 11: “Present for Duty”

April 5, 2016

The DUSTWUN Bowe triggered cost a ton of resources and caused a great deal of suffering (not least for Bowe himself), and for that he should be punished. Certainly the portrait that emerged of him as a samurai wannabe is not a particularly endearing one, and this dopey set of ideas had real-world consequences for thousands of people. He may deserve punishment, Koenig says, though she obviously holds out the possibility that his time with the Taliban was punishment enough. But does he deserve blame?

To pin the tail of guilt on Bergdahl leaves an awful lot of jackasses roaming around with their hindquarters un-pinned, camouflaged in the undergrowth of plausible deniability and endless variables. Koenig cites several missions in which multiple soldiers died, in which their deaths might have been avoided had their units been given their requested access to surveillance drones and other supplies that had been diverted to the Bergdahl search. But is that Bowe’s fault, or the fault of the Army for not having enough equipment? Of the commanding officers (like gravel-voiced Ken Wolfe, who blames himself for one such death and emerges as a voice of moderation regarding Bergdahl’s culpability) who ordered the missions to go forward anyway? What about Defense Secretary Robert Gates, or Gen. Stanley McChrystal, or President Obama? What about the Taliban themselves, as one bereaved parent points out? And finally, to bring it back home, what about the armed forces, who let a man unfit for duty enlist despite his previous, proven inability to serve? Meanwhile, other soldiers who fled their bases—including one who did so with a ceremonial sword and battle ax in an attempt to reach Eastern Europe on foot, in an echo of Bergdahl’s he-man Last Warrior routine—escaped punishment entirely, because they were intercepted by allies rather than enemies. Is it fair to take Bergdahl’s failure out on him? To single out Bergdahl for his link in the chain is to let an awful lot involved parties off the hook.

I reviewed the season finale (!) of Serial Season Two for the New York Observer. I learned a lot about Bowe Bergdahl and the cultural context around him, but there’s no compelling reason why it had to be taught in this format.

“Serial” thoughts, Season Two, Episode Ten: “Thorny Politics”

March 18, 2016

Which brings us back to both the nonexistent investigation into deaths incurred during the search and rescue attempt and Trump’s hang-‘em-high routine. Who’s to blame for the Bergdahl debacle? The Obama Administration certainly broke the law by not informing Congress of its intentions, though as Koenig points out this is hardly unprecedented where the invocation of executive authority is concerned. And pretending there’s no evidence anyone died because of Bergdahl’s actions when the truth is no one ever bothered to try to collect any is impossible to excuse. Civilian oversight of the military is vital to a democracy, even when those civilians are Republican congresscreeps. At the same time, the Administration lied to Congress because Congress, and the entire Republican governmental, political, and media apparatus, has made it a matter of course to deny Obama anything he wants, ever, as well as maintain an hysterical level of fear-mongering about the Gitmo detainees (whose detainment, by the way, is also completely illegal, though you don’t hear HASC complaining there) and terrorism generally. Distrust met with distrust, intransigence with mendacity, illegality with illegality, until traditional political action became impossible. The result: an escalating pattern of hatred of the political enemy and a precipitous loss of faith in the existing institutions to do anything about it. Thus, a market is created: Gee, if only someone whose hatred of the enemy and contempt for the institutions could, somehow, make America great again.

How the battle over Bowe Bergdahl prefigured the rise of Trump: this week in my review of Serial.

“Serial” thoughts, Season Two, Episode Nine: “Trade Secrets”

March 5, 2016

Serial Season Two is a lot like the Afghanistan peace process, actually. Good intentions? Check. Grand plans? Check. The slow collapse of both due to institutional unsuitability to the task at hand? Check. There’s a great story to be told about the capture and release of Bowe Bergdahl. There’s a great story to be told about the decade-plus-long attempt to get us out of the mess we made in the country where he was captured. There’s just not a great story to be had by wedging the latter into the former on a podcast.

I reviewed this week’s rambling episode of Serial for the New York Observer.

“Serial” thoughts, Season Two, Episode Eight: “Hindsight, Part 2”

February 21, 2016

This time, we’re not just counting on fellow soldiers and childhood friends to explain just how ill-suited Bowe and his delusions of heroic grandeur were to army life—we’ve got the man himself. In an interview with screenwriter Mark Boal, Bergdahl describes himself as “lost in the fantasy” of being a soldier—not the modern-day kind, the only variety actually on offer, but a mythologized hybrid of soldiers from World War II, the 1800s, the era of the samurai, and the completely fictional world of kung-fu flicks. Bergdahl’s conception of the soldier’s life was entirely based around outmoded, if not outright invented, ideas of valor and honor. Bowe realizes his viewpoint was not realistic, but sticks with it nonetheless, insisting that the conditions he found unacceptable “shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone.” And since he believes in the bushido code, he doesn’t take any of the more readily traveled roads available to him, from speaking with an embedded reporter (not soldierly enough) to contacting any one of the dozens of officers at the forward operating base he was at days before he wandered off (not heroic enough). Reality had disappointed him, and the ideas he’d generate to reclaim his fantasy would be invariably grandiose—and doomed to failure.

What better writer to give voice to this childlike view than the philosopher queen of take-my-ball-and-go-home right-wing extremism, Ayn Rand? Bergdahl’s friends groan to Koenig as they recall a group email he sent out just prior to his departure, titled “Who Is John Galt?” and cribbing extensively from the Objectivist ur-text Atlas Shrugged, demanding that institutions shape themselves around men of worth, not the other way around. A copy of the novel winds up arriving at his old friend Kim’s house, along with his valuables, days after his disappearance. It’s a shame, in a way, that Bergdahl didn’t go into politics, where Objectivism is often a ticket to the august ranks of the United States Senate and a subsequent failed mid-tier presidential primary campaign. Instead, he went into the Army and “went Galt” when the system failed him, demanding it all grind to a halt in his service. The results were entirely predictable.

I reviewed the second installment in last week’s Serial doubleheader for the New York Observer.

“Serial” thoughts, Season Two, Episode Seven: “Hindsight, Part 1”

February 21, 2016

Over the episode’s relatively short running time of 38 minutes, Koenig presents a litany of first-hand testimony to Bergdahl’s unique psychology. She begins with the many, many soldiers who highly doubt his retrospective rationale for running away from his post, arguing he had years to cook up this flattering story. Some proffer an alternate theory: According to them, Bergdahl sometimes wondered aloud about faking his death, going AWOL, running off to Pakistan, making his way to India, joining the Russian mafia, working his way to the top as a mercenary and hitman, killing the boss, and taking over. Hey, he’s nothing if not ambitious! In the end the story is even less credible and logistically possible than Bergdahl’s version, but it speaks to his overwhelming desire to be seen as a great warrior, a self-made ubermensch.

If this version of Bergdahl is a bit on the Bane side, interviews with earlier acquaintances paint him as more of a Batman type. Growing up isolated and homeschooled on a remote farm, Bergdahl eventually fell in with a slightly artsy crowd clustered around on a performing arts center and teahouse in a nearby town. There he learned how to fence, became famous among his circle for testing his own mettle (seeing how long he could go without speaking, punching trees and rocks to strengthen his hands), and began amassing makeshift weapons to protect his little clique in the event of…god knows what. His friends describe him as a young man obsessed with the concept of virtue and determined to arrive at his own definition rather than follow someone else’s. What he came up with—basically, you can only be a good person if you’re doing everything in your power to solve any problem in the world that you can observe—could be considered crippling in its impossibility to implement…if your goal really was to ameliorate every problem you encounter. If your goal is to be seen as the kind of man who does that, by both yourself and others, then the course is a bit clearer. For Bergdahl, who friends say wanted to be seen as “a silent protector” of the innocent, it was plain as day.

I reviewed the first of last week’s two, count ‘em two, episodes of Serial for the New York Observer.