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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Accessibility. 

This is the kind of city I live in:

Snow falls on trees that are still green.

A man driving a gigantic Chevrolet SUV with a "100% Cowboy" bumpersticker does not see the irony in the dreamcatcher hanging from his rearview.

Bad weather makes the drivers worse, not better. They do things they'd never do in good weather, such as cross three lanes on a slick interstate without using their turn signal.

(We interrupt this broadcast to inform you that Orgazmo comes out on DVD on March 29th. It's about goddamn time.)

All of which is to say it was better I stay in yesterday rather than go out to get my comics and, thusly, die. So no comics reviews until later tonight or tomorrow.

So yesterday I'm handing out copies of the mix CD gift to various people I know. I preface the whole deal with a short little speech:

"Now, I cast the net pretty wide on this one. If you don't like a song, just go to the next track, see how that one suits you. Keep in mind that the best songs, the ones that really stay with you, don't really hook into you on the first, fifth, or even tenth listen. You've gotta soak 'em in before you really get them."

And, for whatever reason, this reminded me of a little game I like to play involving people I'm fond of who aren't into comics: what series to best introduce said persons to comics? All kinds of ways to figure that one out, really; a person's general proclivities in fiction as well as their literacy level are just two of the many barometers.

But there are some comics I'd only hand to people who are already quite sharp, or indoctrinated to the tropes of (for instance) the superhero story. I'm thinking Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns, here, the usual one-two punch of Advanced Superhero Comics. Because I worry about accessibility.

(And I'd actually hand someone I'm uncertain about Watchmen before I'd hand them DKR. The former is much grander, but its general stance and points are right there on the surface. The latter is so wrapped up in sound and fury and energy -- not to mention recognizable franchise characters -- that the engine driving the whole thing can be flat-out missed by those not already clued in.)

How important is accessibility, anyway? Comics as we know them are so mired in esoterica (on both ends of the superhero/art spectrum) that unless you've already invested a good chunk of your life into learning them backwards and forwards, you won't be rewarded for reading 75% of them. The universally hailed benchmark comics series are almost all, in some form or fashion, commentaries on comics themselves. A certain amount of meta is almost a given, which is (as far as I can tell) not a trend duplicated in other mediums, at least not to this degree.

In short: what the fuck is with all the navel-gazing?

On the other hand, it's like what I say about the songs that really stick with you: they may not hit you right away. It may take a long time for them to sink their claws into you and stay for good. The song, basically, has to beat your brain into a shape that can appreciate it.

By which I mean you must already be open and receptive, and learn to meet the artist halfway, rather than having him (or her, or them) do all the work for you. Appreciating a really good work of art (in any medium) is as much putting yourself in the artist's head as it is naked observation.

But you take that too far, of course, you let the artist stay inside his head and do all the work for him (or her, or them), and you get Artboy Coddles His Easily-Wounded Ego. Or Identity Crisis.

The problem with a rant like this is it's not really a rant; it's me trying to work something out by typing it out, hence the rambling nature of it all.

Who straddles that line best, then? Who, in your opinion, has figured out that perfect balance of artist/audience workload? What does the artist owe to the audience, and what does the audience owe to the artist?

Help me out, here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Me again. 

My roommate conjured up a pretty good joke yesterday about our living conditions.

THE ROOMMATE: You know what's great about living next to a mall during Christmas?

ME: No, what?

THE ROOMMATE: Nothing.

In the Spirit of Whatever I've been making up a couple different mix CDs, titled "Chrismannukwanzaa Mix 2004," in versions both elder (for parents and elder siblings and such) and younger (peers). I'm actually pretty fucking pleased with the results, and instead of posting a top 10 list of whatever suits my fancy, as is the trend, I'm just gonna give you the Younger version. Fire up your favorite illegal p2p software, download the tracks, assemble them in order, enjoy.

Yes, the order of the tracks matters, too. There's such a thing as "flow."

(Note: some track selections are obvious, but eternal classics. Others just felt right. You'll note I violated a cardinal rule of The Mix and put in two songs by one band, but trying to choose between them was like choosing which child of mine gets to live. So they both went in.)

My gift to you.

1. "Beautiful Night," The Burden Brothers
2. "Supercruel," Monster Magnet
3. "I Wanna Make It Wit Chu," Desert Sessions 9 & 10
4. "Love Rollercoaster," Red Hot Chili Peppers
5. "Wasted Early Sunday Morning," Sneaker Pimps
6. "One," Johnny Cash
7. "Speaking in Tongues," Eagles of Death Metal
8. "19-2000," Gorillaz
9. "King For a Day," Faith No More
10. "Settling Down," Jerry Cantrell
11. "The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret," Queens of the Stone Age
12. "Stroke of Luck," Garbage
13. "Lovely Creature," Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
14. "Cowboy Love," Reverend Horton Heat
15. "Fresh Tendrils," Soundgarden
16. "Slither," Velvet Revolver
17. "For Tonight You're Only Here to Know," The Distillers
18. "Conditional," The Burden Brothers

(And as for where I've been all this time, it's really not that interesting. Let's just file that one under "burnout" and move on.)

Monday, December 20, 2004

Stuff being given away... 

...and not by me, for once.

Mike Sterling, as you probably already know, is giving away copies of Swamp Thing: Bad Seed, the TPB by Andy Diggle and Enrique Breccia. The rules are pretty simple:

If you want to enter, all you have to do is send an e-mail to contest (at) progressiveruin.com telling me, in 25 words or less, why you, yes, you, would like to have a copy of Swamp Thing: Bad Seed. I will pick one winner, either by choosing the entry I like the most, or, if I'm too wishy-washy to narrow it down to one winner, by a random drawing. You have until Friday, December 31st, 2004, to enter, and results will be posted, hopefully, in the first week of the new year.

Go. Enter. Frolic. Be merry.

And if you're a blogger and you win a copy, well, WRITE ABOUT IT! That's an order.

Remember me? 

Howdy.

Let's get started.

1) Thank god for the news, or I would not get my 24 hour update on Lindsay Lohan's whereabouts and purported sex life. Obviously this is important, because why else would every news outlet in the fucking WORLD be saturated with news about this girl? She is a moderately talented actress, yes, but beyond that there appears to be nothing particularly special about her; I know myself to be at blame for this. Clearly I'm missing something.

Because surely this isn't just a publicity mechanism to get her album some improved sales. (And no doubt the album is one that will reverberate down through the generations with its instant-classic status, and certainly not be remembered as just more pop pap released as an obvious, callous cash grab by all parties involved.) Surely the most comprehensive information network this planet has ever seen is not wasted on raging debates about whether some barely-legal redhead has fake tits or not.

Surely not.

1b.) I am told of a circumstance wherein Ms. Lohan's boyfriend dumped her after she stated in an interview she wants to start popping out kids ASAP. It occurs to me that magazines are not the best place for two people to discuss what they want out of their relationship.

It also occurred to me that it would be a fucking blast to have an entirely public relationship, where even the most mundane details are disseminated through the press. I wouldn't make a phone call to see what my hypothetical girl wanted to do that weekend; I'd issue a press release.

"DO YOU FEEL LIKE THAI TONIGHT?" ASKS RANDY BLOGGER
"IT GIVES ME GAS," RESPONDS SUCCULENT PARAMOUR

Any takers?

2) Let's put a moratorium on using the word "mature" to positively describe a comic, all right? First off, it sounds like you're describing porn, like in this copy of Human Target Christopher Chance is infiltrating a donkey show... and will he be the donkey, or the girl?

(I kid. I love Human Target.)

Second, it strikes me as yet another heavy rock in the kitten-drowning bag that is the comic world's self-esteem. When I see that word used to describe a series or OGN, I get the rather unpleasant visual of some fat, sweaty, near-balding guy wringing his hands while he desperately tries to tell an anonymous Art Critic that "no, really, comics aren't ALL lame!"

It implies the default setting on comics is "Childish."

(I can hear the response already. "Blah blah blah, man-panties, yadda yadda, Marvel fellates the devil, yakkity shmakkity, killing the industry." To which I say: please find a new mode of critique or find a new hobby. We don't need you.)

Unacceptable. There are shit comics out there, certainly, by the fucking ton. But that's true of any popular medium. No need to kneecap ourselves.

3) The phrase "Support Our Troops" drives me batshit insane every time I see it, and that's rather a lot, these days.

It's empty jingoism of the worst variety. What does it mean to "support our troops"? Do you send them money and pictures of your bare ass? Do you carry them piggyback when they get tired of walking?

Hell, what's it mean to NOT "support our troops"? Does it mean you stand on a street corner and yell "TROOPS ARE STUPID" all day? Do you stick bananas in the tailpipes of humvees?

It's an empty gesture and an empty phrase. A meaningless, effort-free exercise in acting better-than. You put your little sticker on your car (or the words up on your place of business to drum up sales from suckers) and suddenly you're a Goddamn American, and you can now safely look down on anyone else who might have, say, a "FUCK DUBYA RIGHT UP THE ASS" bumpersticker on the back of their VW bus. It's like a Members Only jacket, but for retards who confuse shrewd capitalism for patriotism.

4) Picked up the TPB for Kyle Baker's Plastic Man. Was completely underwhelmed. Perfectly capable of accepting the fact that I am an ingrate who does not understand True Artistry, but every single other candidate for Best New Series at the Eisners impacted me more than this. The odd thing is that, for me, a TPB collection of a series is usually more effective than a collection of the series' singles. So it failed on even that account.

What gives?

5) Name me a single comic that got you excited about comics this year. Just one issue. Don't care if it was Identity Crisis or Artboy Coddles His Easily-Wounded Ego, I just want to hear about it. I want to know that the venture was worthwhile, this year.

(Keep in mind this is not one of those kneejerk "the year sucked" kind of comments. I don't believe in lazy bullshit like that. I just want to hear YOUR testimonial.)

So tell me.

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