Waiting for Elmo etc.

March 17, 2009 at 1:11 pm (James Joyce, poetry, Samuel Beckett, writers)

St. Paddy’s day seems as good a time as ever to dust off the old blog. Apologies all around for my absence. I’d share my excuses with you if they weren’t just examples of my laziness. Which I suppose is another example in itself.

Here’s an amusing take on a famous Irishman’s most famous play:

And slightly more serious:

If you manage to listen to it all, leave your impressions, if you please. For instance, when do you loose track of all the Biblical references?

You know, it really has been quite some time since I posted. Let’s see what else I can come up with by the end of the week.

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My Problem with “In Search of Steve Ditko”

September 22, 2007 at 4:52 pm (Alan Moore, comics, long post Strong Bad! long post!, Neil Gaiman, Shade: The Changing Man, Steve Ditko, too many tags, writers)

First off, before I state my case against the documentary, I am by no way or means an expert on comics. It has been only in recent years that I’ve become interested in the art form and my involvement has been as a reader and not a collector.

So. In Search of Steve Ditko is a documentary that comes to us by way of Jonathan Ross and Channel 4 that explores the reclusive comic book artist and co-creator of Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and many other superheroes. It also stars titans of the medium such as Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, and of course, the master showman, Stan Lee. For the most part, I found the doc informative and entertaining but something was wrong, something was missing from their characterization of Mr. Ditko.

Naturally, there was a summary of the illustrator’s career in which the tale was told of how he came to leave Marvel Comics and his further “less-successful” development. The story ranged from psycho-tropic imagery mixing with his conservatism to his take on the Vietnam war with Hawk and Dove. This was wrapped up with the lackluster creation of the Creeper for DC Comics whose absurd powers Alan Moore described as the ability to”laugh at will”.

What was most compelling about this analysis was Ditko’s super-hero Mr. A, a black or white, good or evil moralist who’s didactic preaching was influenced by the writings of the philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand, as seen in the title of part three of Atlas Shrugged, A is A. If I recall correctly, most of the experts on the show attributed this black or white, no shades of gray world-view onto the creator of the character due to his past disagreements with Stan Lee and the anecdotal evidence of Alan Moore. One of the magician’s bands even has a song called Mr. A based on his meeting with Ditko which alone is worth watching the doc for.

Most of this characterization can be polarized by one of Ditko’s creations never mentioned in the documentary, Shade: The Changing Man. The exclusion of Shade is telling. Even the name of the character may be taken as a reference to the “shades of gray” opposed by the black and white of Mr. A. The powers of Shade’s M-Vest allowed the fugitive to appear however he liked and gave the anti-hero the ability to take advantage of the mental state of whoever saw him. Not to mention the anti-hero’s trials of clearing his own name have the didactic thrust of not trusting how things appear to be. Rather relativistic, don’t you think?

Due to this omission I believe it possible that the documentary left this particular creation out because it contradicted one of it’s implied thesis’: that Steve Ditko, legendary comic book illustrator that he is, may have been driven to reclusion and obscurity due to his espousal of the objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand. It may be worth my mentioning that Ms. Rand herself was a recluse in her later years.

Now, I understand this was a short television doc and was possibly constrained for time. I also realize I know next to nothing about Steve Ditko himself. But I believe leaving out Shade is an injustice to the character and Ditko. It may not have been the most successful title in it’s own time but later it went on to become one of the first titles under the imprint of Vertigo. In Peter Milligan’s incarnation Shade becomes one of the most morally obtuse characters around (let alone his “retinue”) and I believe the roots for this trait are to be found in Ditko’s original.

Steve Ditko is certainly what one could refer to as a recluse. But his supposed black or white morality? I’m not so sure. Mr.A is certainly a didactic figure but what are we to make of Shade if that is the case? Could Ditko’s personal views have changed so drastically over the course of a decade?

Such a change is certainly possible and it should have been mentioned as such in this charming, though incomplete, documentary.

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A Memory of Light: Robert Jordan 1948-2007

September 17, 2007 at 1:50 pm (agony, Robert Jordan, writers)

The last nail is in the coffin, so to speak. My own memories of the man and his work are few, so I’ll keep it short.

My friend Jon introduced me to Jordan and his epic series The Wheel of Time after mentioning him as a favorite author on a plane ride to England four years ago. We had conversations of what we thought would happen next (I still like to think that Verin is somehow linked to Mat) as well as the crazy women depicted in the books which led to arguments on the merits of each of them (Faile isn’t that bad!). These debates or discussions lasted far into the night long after Jon’s wife Amanda had wisely gone to bed.

I also remember my anger at reading a local book review in Here magazine of Jordan’s Knife of Dreams and the reviewers complaint of whether the series would ever end. Little did she know that the author was sick, and that Jordan’s next book would be the last in tWoT as well. I still wonder whether the reviewer had even read the book or was just aware of the series as a whole…

I’m currently rereading this gentleman’s incomplete series for what I believe is the third time and discover that I’ll be approaching the work now with a bit more reverence then before.

But not too much. I doubt the creator of Nynaeve would care for such a sentiment.

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Kill Yr Idols…

June 13, 2007 at 12:19 pm (Bukowski, Ezra Pound, idols, poetry, T. S. Eliot, Vonnegut, writers)

…or how Bukowski convinces his future wife that he’s a great, sensitive writer by beating her.

That’s what this post would have been about but the video was removed for copyright infringement. I guess you’re just gonna have to take my word for it. Such a video would have demonstrated misogyny. Instead, here’s an excerpt from Women about, well, women.

“If I had been born a woman I would certainly have been a prostitute. Since I had been born a man, I craved women constantly, the lower the better. And yet women-good women-frightened me because they wanted your soul, and what was left of mine, I wanted to keep. Basically I craved prostitutes, base women, because they were deadly and hard and made no personal demands. Nothing was lost when they left. Yet at the same time I yearned for a gentle, good woman, despite the overwhelming price. Either way I was lost. A strong man would give up both. I wasn’t strong. So I continued to struggle with women, with the idea of women.”

Here’s Bukowski’s own reading of the poem dinosauria, we that hints at his misanthropy:

In the published poem, Bukowski refers to Dante’s Inferno as a children’s playground in comparison as to what’s to come. I assume he cut it out of the video since it would have appeared too learned for his usual crowd. Observe the comments at Youtube.

Before I go on, let me just say that I do not share this world-view with Bukowski and by the end of Women it appears that Buk’s veiled representation of himself, Hank Chinaski, has prepared to give up what is left of his soul. So I suppose there’s still hope for him. Or was hope. He’s dead and mostly dust by now. Perhaps he’s up in heaven with Vonnegut.

Although Charles Bukowski’s words and stories are for the most part ugly and painted with a Schopenhauer colored will, they can also be witty, charming and beautiful due to this marred world-view. Like such great writers as T. S. Eliot or Ezra Pound, one can take their antisemitism or fascism or Bukowski’s misanthropy and gain a greater understanding of ourselves as a whole without coming to the conclusion that they are just poor representatives of humanity. On the contrary, it is due to these flaws that make them “great” writers, “great” advocates of our species.

There is often difficulty in reading an author with such a forceful opinion of how things are, not to mention a belligerent following who take his or her word as gospel. Remembering that these writers are human just like the rest of us may be difficult as well, especially when they’re beating women and prophesying our doom.

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April is the cruelest month…

April 25, 2007 at 11:11 pm (coincidence, poetry, T. S. Eliot, Umberto Eco, writers)

Today I went to Chapters and picked up Umberto Eco’s latest piece of fiction, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, and was delighted to discover that the character’s adventures arise on the same day I began to read them.

The Mysterious Flame excites me due to the fact that it’s an Eco book with an amnesiac as a main character, but especially since it’s illustrated with a plethora of European magazine and comic clippings. In full color! And they’re actually foot-noted!

My “plan” is to read this twice in a row, first by my lonesome and then with the aid of this wiki. These annotations will aid me with Eco’s notorious intertextuality and, at a glance, they appear to be more fully illustrated than the book. Plenty of translations, photography, paintings, maps, and stamps to inform me of Man’s barren memory. Eco says this is his last piece of fiction so I’m gonna milk it for all it’s worth.

April, since it is so cruel, is also poetry month and I’ve been trying to work up the nerve to post something of mine, whether it be old or new. Only five days left. We’ll see.

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