Thursday, July 30, 2009

Man With A Plan

I am always inspired by De La Soul, whether it was the chronic bouts of agorophobic isolationism I experienced in Asia, taking me till 11 most days to venture out of my hotel room, to now when I have no idea what I'm doing or planning to do.
Specifically, in 'I Am I Be' Pousdnous has the following segment that always sticks in my mind:

If I wasn't making song I wouldn't be a thug selling drugs
But a man with a plan
and if I was a rug cleaner
betcha Pos'd have the cleanest rugs I am.

Of course it seems that even getting a job as a rug cleaner is a tall order these days. But the sentiment is nice, and the sentiment is real.

So I know I need a job, some kind of job, any kind of job because I need a space of my own to do what I want. Long-middle term I actually need a workshop, you see because I want to become a 'renaissance man' it's the only thing that will make me satisfied I feel.

So I have drawn up plans for a room for me:

I figure I need roughly 3 x 4 meters at least. I've decided I don't need built in robes, having more or less lived out of two piles for the last 8 years of my life 'dirty' and 'clean' my clothing just isn't complicated enough to warrent exorbitancies like BIR.
Then with the bed I'm taking a page out of Michelangelo's book:
In his personal life, Michelangelo was abstemious. He told his apprentice, Ascanio Condivi: "However rich I may have been, I have always lived like a poor man."[20] Condivi said he was indifferent to food and drink, eating "more out of necessity than of pleasure"[20] and that he "often slept in his clothes and ... boots."[20] These habits may have made him unpopular. His biographer Paolo Giovio says, "His nature was so rough and uncouth that his domestic habits were incredibly squalid, and deprived posterity of any pupils who might have followed him."[21] He may not have minded, since he was by nature a solitary and melancholy person. He had a reputation for being bizzarro e fantastico because he "withdrew himself from the company of men."

AFter a year of living in a garage, all I really want is one of those spartan camp cots to sleep on, rather than a big twin bed that dominates a whole room. That is so I can have a big table in the room. Crucially removed from the wall. A big table allows you to spread shit out at a workable height, and work on stuff that is larger than A3 in scale. I guess I'd want a smooth wooden surface so I can do cutting and shit with a stanley knife.

That stanley knife would be kept in a storage unit, just one of those wheely set of drawers, that I can stash all kinds of wonderous pens, brushes, inks, clutch pencils, carpenters pencils, charcoal etc. in.

That's next to desk 1, a drawing desk. With one of those angled boards, a set square, the works. What architects work away on, that shit. Graphic designers too. Maybe if there's room an overhead projector thing as well.

Then desk 2, is the computer, the bane of modern creativity. I need a scanner, screen and graphic tablet, because learning to paint with a mouse is worse than learning to paint with a chinese calligraphy brush. Albeit the one time I drew with a graphic tablet at Harvards, it was still incredibly hard. But it's hard in the touch-typing sense, not the completely counter-intuitive sense.

Then some bookshelves, for books that I use for reference, inspiration. I think I'm one of the few people that accumulates books that actually does constantly go back and refer to them. I dog eared almost every single page of The Female Eunuch. And some times when economics gets confusing, I go back and reread Growth Fetish or The Black Swan & shit. Anyway, it's also for storing all the notebooks and visual diaries. I've almost gone through as many visual diaries this year as I did in my Studio Art 3/4 year. Which I am pleased about, but at this rate I'd fill one of those bookshelves in 5 years.

Lastly, the key component of it all - the walls, the table is removed from the wall so I can actually storyboard. That makes writing for comics so much easier, because you can rough the layout, speech bubbles and everything, then pin it up over 6 meters of wall and refer to it as you draw the pencil roughs.

This is going to be workshop Mk 1. Which I am calling Freedonia, because I just watched Duck Soup last night. (oh the days before laugh tracks made for... awkward... comedy).

That's the plan. Now just to pay for it somehow.

I am I be.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Vitruvian Frustration

I just finished the pencil roughs for SS2, which ironically has a lot to do with frustration.

It's been good though because unlike drawing a full blown comic, where you just have to plough through heaps of talking head panels and necessary action sequences involving people running, fighting or just plain walking down a street, this project is all about large scale detailed pictures (relative to comic book panels).

I'm kind of itching now to get back to comics, but it is true what they say: relish the times when you're frustrated because that is when you are learning.

I have a couple of abstract compositions in it all, but the fact of the matter at the end of the day is, you can't really fuck up abstract too bad. It's not frustrating to work with, and infact it's kind of a travesty that someone who did nothing but distortion like Brett Whitely is better remembered and sells for more than someone that had to paint near photo-realistic compositions like errr... Elvgreen.

But it's trying to get shit right that makes it all frustrating, and it's overcoming that frustration that gives me work I'm actually proud of. I have to scan in my pencil roughs now, and then I guess, we'll see how the whole collection comes together before inking, painting etc.

But today let's just say I was working on an 'italian' inspired composition, and I wanted to do something in the rough neighbourhood of the Florentine Renaissance Masters. Now obviously I am no match for and I quote:

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci ( pronunciation (help·info), April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) was an Italian polymath, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance man, a man whose unquenchable curiosity was equaled only by his powers of invention.[1] He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.

But what I can do is take his guide to proportions for 'The Vitruvian Man' which are:

a palm is the width of four fingers
a foot is the width of four palms (i.e., 12 inches)
a cubit is the width of six palms
a pace is four cubits
a man's height is four cubits (and thus 24 palms)
the length of a man's outspread arms is equal to his height
the distance from the hairline to the bottom of the chin is one-tenth of a man's height
the distance from the top of the head to the bottom of the chin is one-eighth of a man's height
the distance from the bottom of the neck to the hairline is one-sixth of a man's height
the maximum width of the shoulders is a quarter of a man's height
the distance from the middle of the chest to the top of the head is a quarter of a man's height
the distance from the elbow to the tip of the hand is a quarter of a man's height
the distance from the elbow to the armpit is one-eighth of a man's height
the length of the hand is one-tenth of a man's height
the distance from the bottom of the chin to the nose is one-third of the length of the head
the distance from the hairline to the eyebrows is one-third of the length of the face
the length of the ear is one-third of the length of the face
the length of a man's foot is one-sixth of his height

If you actually read tot he bottom of that, bravo. This seemed like a good idea, before I tried to do it. As indicated it does seem the industry uses this somewhat with their 'A head is 1/8th of the height' because Tim Sale talked about it in his book. But alas, I decided to switch to mannerist school of Michelangelo, whom held up that the composition should be supernaturally impressive. Which I interpret as licence to fuck around with proportions.

The other thing I realised, was that the renaissance masters have a luxury, that being we tend to see the end results of all their years in training, the very best results they ever obtained, like the Vitruvian Man, David, the Mona Lisa, Birth of Venus etc. We don't see the pages and pages and pages of Vitruvian men that Da Vinci fucked up. Remember they didn't really have much rubber back in those days, so erasing was out of the question.

When I think about whilst I would probably, even trying my hardest not be able to ever compete with Da Vinci, maybe, just maybe if I had been sent to an accomplished artists studio like Verrocio to work day in day out on drawing, sculpting etc. I would have been pretty fucking good too.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dearest me 6 months or so from now...

I love you, I hate you. How are you? You make me feel sick, you know that. Sick with guilt. I'm always looking to you wondering 'Am I setting you up right?' and I'm always looking back at myself and finding it hard to cope with the dissapointment. I'm never good enough for you, I can never be who you want me to be.
I know, I know, I know, I'm a chronic procrastinator. Fact is I know deep down, where I keep you most of the time, that you are someone else, you are not me. The differences are subtle, and most people can't tell the difference, but I know, I know you and I are like chalk and fucking cheese. Cept I'm the chalk, everybody loves cheese.
You know this, probably better than I do, but I'm scared of you, I'm scared of what you'll do. It's why I feel so much pressure to set you up right, even though you aren't me. You will know what kind of job I did, and it frustrates me but you'll probably be proud of how I comported myself, but you never tell me that, you don't, you can't.
You're a proud motherfucker, and I'm scared, am I setting you up to be someone the world doesn't want or need? Or if I fail will you then become some big problem, that they'll lay the blame at my feet, my failure.
I know you would never blame me, you're the forgiving sort, but I just hope you always choose the hard choice, not the easy choice. You have your own demon, in a relationship not disimilar from mine to you. I know that, you don't have time to deal with me, you've got no control. Right now, you are but a babe in my arms.
But just know, that you are the scariest fucking baby I've ever come across. I just want you to be happy, not great, or important or special, just happy.
But I don't have your control, I can't make you feel what I want you to feel because by the time you read this, I'm gone, and dead. Usurped, by you, the one man Oedipus. I give you everything, you give me nothing.

Remember that time, in the park early on with Miki, where we told her we were scared of what we were becoming? She told us not to worry, easy for her to say. She said she couldn't see it in me. And we believed her. Of course neither of us were really there. But we both had her. At one time, I believed her, and I'd like it if you would believe her too.
We are best when we are good and kind and giving. I want to set you up to have the most opportunities to do that. I don't want you to shut that down, become all about proving shit to yourself. It's our mutual compulsion I know, but cool it off. Make sure you stick to what you do best, which is doing your best for others.

This is the harshest thing I can say to you, but fact is you don't matter. You don't matter to anyone as much as you do to me, and when you here those words, I'll be gone. Replaced by you. Respect that mother fucker.

Fucking Oedipus.

Hugs and kisses,

the guy who used to be you.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Notch 1

I have decided to start my own new religious dogma. It only took me 800 posts. Yes this apparantly is my 800th blog post. Which means I must have been doing this for over 3 years now or something. Yet blogging seems so antiquated and twitter too new and scary for me, plus I've never been so narcissistic as to want to have hundreds of people I don't know very well follow my day to day activities. (says the blogger).

You see today, as a carry over from yesterday I feel like a dick. Just one of those destitute days where you feel tired, a failure, alone and aimless. My memory seems to drudge up all the harshest moments of my life when I've been a dick to try and compound my depression, it takes maximum conscious effort to dredge up the positives, to not feel like a victim and to not be a whining little bitch.

It reminds me, wholeheartedly of getting dumped. Which surprisingly, is exciting. Because the last couple of times I've gotten dumped it has been a rude shocking awakening to my life, to realise how comfortable I'd gotten, and in that comfort had been occupied becoming somebody I did not wish to be.

In other words, when I've been dumped is when I've gotten better really quickly. I think this segment of Real captures the revelation.

You become cornered and you realise without knowing it, you've let yourself become somebody you never wanted to be, and you realise the only way out of the predicament is to work your way out.

To just do what it is you always wanted to be doing. I thought I was doing this, but I realise I have no idea what I'm doing. It came on suddenly, I wasn't relying on anything I was working on, just wishful thinking. I wanted a lucky break. I had placed my own destiny outside of my control.

SO here is how my new religious doctrine is going to work. At the bottom you have 'dick' that's as low as you can be. You feel like a dick because you probably are one. Then you have a whole series of notches going up into the sky.

When you achieve something new and different that you are actually proud of, you get to ratchet yourself up a notch.

For my coming on 26 years of sentience, I am putting myself at notch 1. That's the culmination of all my efforts. When I get something new achieved I'll go up to notch 2. The way I figure if I get to notch 100, I should be unstoppable. Since moments of pride you've had can't really be taken away, I haven't really provided going down any notches in my system, but theoretically I guess it's possible.

So 'Fear of a White Planet' is the first thing I've ever done just for me, just because I wanted to and whilst far from being satisfied with the result, I am proud of the actual achievement. So I'm bumping myself up a notch from 'dick' to 'notch 1' now the pressure is on to get to notch 2 as quickly as possible. I have a few opportunities to do that I may even get to notch 3 by the end of the year.

I'll record it all here. By labelling a post whenever I go up a notch. That way when I get to notch 100, if I have any integrity, I'll have something to show for myself.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mosaic Tile

People are terrible at predicting hedonistic impact, its true. I concede that point. Well made. But when I was checking stocks of FOWP today, which is slowly but surely selling, I stood back and took note of one particularly pressing example of overoptimistic hedonistic impact.
If you asked any artist, 'would you like to paint one of the tiles in our huge mosaic?' okay they would probably leap at the chance such are the whores known as artists. But would they then estimate that anyone would notice their tile amidst a sea of similar and perhaps even more interesting tiles? They would hopefully concede that people just don't have the physical capacity to notice so much detail amongst detail. They may notice something, but hey, there's pretty much no guaruntee they will notice yours.

Which isn't to say, having one humble zine title amidst a shelf full of humble zine titles is a waste of time, I would point out that fowp is slowly but surely selling, I've seen 5 copies go in a week, and 5 copies take two months to sell.
Books sell, and bookstores exemplify the mosaic dilemma.
The point though is that the sheer audacity to see an overcrowded shelf and yell 'mine too' would indicate that it takes perhaps in most cases a level of self belief not grounded in any reality.

I for example, anticipated selling 50 copies in 2 months, not as it were 5 months... which when I think about it, doesn't sound that bad.
But it does seem painfully slow and painful relative to my expectations that fowp would run out the door.
I could almost, almost, create new comics as fast as I can sell them, instead. Which in a way is good.

I raise all these points though, because it just reminds me of the one, if no other thing I learned from my marketing degree: positioning.

Its all about getting a position, be it on the shelf or in consumers minds. I am ever more acutely aware that sooner or later, you have to show up for the big dance. Having read as many comics now over the past year as I have, I know intuitively I have more talent at least in writing than many of the established writers. Yet they have the position, the opportunity to actually get their stuff out there.

It reaffirms that beyond some initial mysterious impetus (usually hard work) big brands, big names etc. are big because they are big. Success and failure compounds.

Being just another colourful tile in a mosaic often gets lost in the fact that you are colourful. But you want to be the iris stone in the eye on the face because that's what people look at. That in essence is positioning.

Dirty Drawing Secret

Sometimes, when life is getting me down, and I find myself asking: will I ever make it? and other times when I just can't draw what I'm trying to fucking draw and I find myself asking: how many hours have I been at this now? I turn to the internet for comfort, for inspiration, for motivation to keep going.

Specifically I really enjoy listening to Bobby Chiu's digital painting video blog thingy's. Partly because he reminds me of the Ski Instructor from South Park, the dude that keeps saying 'If you pizza when your meant to frenchfry, You're not going to have a good time.'

check it out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Serendipitously it seems Melbourne is relaunching itself with a bold new logo as reported in 'The Age' today.
Every time I hear from Robert Doyle, I am amazed at what a complete and utter turd sandwich he is. A complete douchebag, I feel it is a sad indictment of what Melbourne has come to be. I wasn't actually that big a fan of John So, but at least one never noticed John So, the man generated almost no publicity, aside from the 'John So is my bro' campaign, which wasn't really about anything, and thus suited melbourne perfectedly.

But from wanting to open up Swanston St to Traffic, presumably because Doyle wants to drive to work now, to spending $240,000 on a geometric 'M' logo. Doyle is just plain uncool and annoying. Plus we know he is a state government reject.

I do take solace though, in the fact that Robert Doyle, I am quietly confident, is no Cosimo Di Medici. I'm even confident in a quieter sort of way that he is not even a Lorenzo Di Medici or Niccolo Macievelli.

This means there is still plenty of room for my ambitions for Melbourne. You see I want to make a Florence aka Firenze out of Melbourne. When I told some friends about this they were all like 'uh-uh, never going to happen' which I interpret as a challange, and a possible threat to my sexual identity for good measure. But let's go through the raw material we have to work with:

1. It's not like Florence had something in the water, they just had a patron of some artists, namely Cosimo Di Medici, the banker that landed the Vatican account, he sponsored Donatello, his Grandson Lorenzo ended up spending away most of Cosimo's wealth on your Botticelli's, Da Vinci, and Michelangelo.
These guys were given the opportunity and lavish budgets to create sculpture, paintings, frescoes, etc. They pretty much got to work in any medium they chose. Stylistically, you can see al the renaissance artists were derived from the same sort of school, meaning they follow Malcolm Gladwell's rule of 10,000 hours plus the financial opportunity.
The point I'm making is Florence in it's heyday had a smaller population than Melbourne, education standards were still being dictated by the Catholic chruch (hell Galleleo got censured for proposing a correct model of the solar system) and it's not a divine coincidence that all the fucking greatest artists in the world happened to all be born in the neighbourhood of Tuscany and all work for the same family. It's the reverse, the family gave them work, to the extent that they could become the greatest artists in the world.

2. One of the objections to my ambition, was that culturally Australian's just aren't patrons of the arts. You'd never get the market here. But if you go to Florence, and walk through the Uffizi Gallery and take note of how many works were originally decorations for some Church, Chapel or Cathedral you will discover that the Renaissance wasn't about the incidence of some highly cultured population creating a market for the artists. It was just fucking advertising.
Specifically, it was the Medici's and the Vatican trying to wow peasent folk with over the top artworks and architecture to say 'look peasent, we Medici's/Pope's (and sometimes both) are in charge because God favoured us, and we repay god kindly.'
The Medici literally commissioned all the art to foster an impression of natural order. It did eventually succeed in getting them a Pope, a marriage into French Royalty, and the title of Duke in a republic. So it did work.
The real point being that again, it was a flip flop to how most people assume things work. Namely the work came first, the market second. Most renaissance art was created ironically, precisely because the general public was uncultured. If they had been highly cultured sceptics like a small proportion of current society is, Renaissance art wouldn't work. You would just say 'God doesn't favor the Medici's, he's spending all his fucking money on paintings.'

3. The above two, in theory apply to anywhere, it is a matter of will to make something like this happen. A matter of a few people havign the vision and investing in it and sticking to it. How is Melbourne a candidate though.
Well it's a second city, something that it has in common with Firenze. It means it's under the radar, just like people assumed Rome was the center of the Italian Peninsula whilst Florence snuck up and overtook, so too does Sydney outshine Melbourne in terms of sheer Iconography, think the Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour itself.
Sydney is a reflection of the Australian economy writ large, it isn't about what we do, it's about what we have. It's all about sitting on natural resources and inheritances and reaping the rents in tourist dollars and raw produce.
Melbourne doesn't have such, the weather is shitty, Fed Square is not intuitively a treasure of the naked eye. Yes we have the fucking goldfields, and some of the most fertile countryside in all Australia, but overall it doesn't have the simple task of maintaining the efforts of previous generations like pre-renaissance Rome and modern day Sydney do.

4. The world is smaller, back in the renaissance logistically Florence was about as isolated from Greater Europe as Australia is now. You had to float or cart goods down the Arno to Pisa pack it on a wooden ship that used Wind power to cross the Mediteranian up to the South of france, where you then had to cart goods about 600km to Paris feeding and watering your horses all the while. Alternatively you could have goods send by road over the Alps, but somehow I simply doubt this happened much unless it was bound for Germany. But France was pretty much 'the world' back then. Also Italy wasn't one country, it was the Florentine Republic, The Duchy of Milan, the Principality of Venice, the Duchy of Genoa etc. etc. Every major city was it's own powerhouse back then, so presumably there would have been all kinds of tariffs and trade restrictions. Yet Florence was still the major exporter to the world.
Nowdays, with Globalisation, shipping goods from a place like Melbourne to the world, is roughly the same as shipping goods from Japan to the world. It is infact comparatively easier than back in the day of shipping shit from Florence to Paris.
Yeah Melbourne has some of the worlds worst infrastructure, and worlds worst docks but the point is that the means is out there to be a big export player, if only... only we were producing the culture.

5. If it ain't broke don't fix it. I put it to you that Melbourne, culturally is broke. We have our laneways, our graffiti is apparantly world class, but then walking past a plastic ice skating rink in the middle of Fed Sqaure, it struck me. Melbourne will never really stand on it's own two feet so long as it keeps attempting to import culture from New York and Paris. Other idiotic suggestions always coming from councillours are European vacation inspired visions of lining the filthy Yarra with artificial beaches for sunbathing in summer, architecture follows the globalised scene, even the new 'M' logo smacks of London's 2012 olympic logo, and the current decades preference for soulless geometric objects.
This perhaps is the most difficult concept to get around when trying to be world class in anything, not just trying to create a renaissance like hub city. You can't try to be like the current leaders, if you want to have a societal role like New York, Paris or historically Florence, then one thing you can't do is imitate New York, Paris or historical Florence.
To try and articulate it better, we are trying to reproduce the concept, not the execution. Think of pizza, you can get pizza in every country of the world, yet the execution is never the same. Australian's put an inch of ham or whatever other topping onto a deep dish base dust it with Mozzerella and toast it under a big rolling oven. Americans make a slice the size of your face, they put an inch of mozzeralla and rarely anything more than sauce underneath, you fold it up and eat it by the slice as you waltz around town. Romans do a square pizza by the slice, Naples do the thin melty 'culturally authentic' pizza, usually italian pizza's are simple affairs of tomato sauce, mozzerella and basil. The concept is 'pizza' the execution is always local.
So there, the concept is 'Renaissance Florence' or 'Edo period Tokyo' the execution though has to be Melbourne. There are some artists that have pulled this off in the past, like John Brack, sadly though they lack the imitation to make a city out of it.
But mayhaps in an illustrative example, what it means is Melbourne should construct buildings of master artistry and craftsmenship that can inspire the locals and the world, but they shouldn't take the approach of saying 'Florence has the Ponte Vecchio, and we want to be florence, so we will build a replica Ponte Vecchio on the Swanston st/St Kilda Road bridge.' that's the no-no. We don't want to imitate the cityies of reference, we need to stop doing that, we need to take reference from the cities and like them, create our own identities.

6. One corner, one vision. Following on from the last point, when you go to ST. Peter's Bassallica, infact everything about the Vatican, is the vision of Michelangelo. The Roman Catholic Church wasn't founded by Jesus or St Peter, it's standing in the world I think is the creation of Michelangelo.
The hardest hurdle, I feel for 'culture' world wide, is the memetic contagion of coolness. If you want an example, next time you are in the CBD wait on Swanston and Collins st intersection, and count the number of helmetless fixed gear riders basically the number of people you see dressed like this.
I predict that in an hour you will see between 3 & 5. Another example is the 'zine scene' go into the flinders st basement and waltz into sticky (it's where I sell FWOP) you'll notice for a culture of 'independant' zines made by various people with no editorial interference or accountability to any kind of market, how horrifyingly same-like it all is.
Similarly, log onto facebook, and look for a friends album that takes place in Shinjuku Japan. If your friend is a pretentious artist, I bet they have taken photos of pretentious Japanese teenagers dressed up in 'out-there' clothes like everybody does, in the same way that everybody also poses for a photo in Pisa such that it looks like they are holding the leaning tower up.
Memes spread so fast these days that it has become the universal struggle of street level independant artists. They all simply immitate eachother. Banksy in London is ripped off by Melbourne stencil artists, and that doesn't deserve to make Melbourne a world class graffitti town, because the world already had Banksy.
Do you see what I mean? Creation is more than just noticing something and documenting it, or replicating it. It has to, in my opinion come from the self, it has to be your unique perspective.
I don't know the fucking answers, but I know where not to start, and that is, you don't start by looking global and trying to import culture. This is about exporting. Exporting!

Anyway, I think it can be done. It just requires discipline and vision and investment. The 3 things alas, most people are born without.

But I'm taking baby steps, and hey to end on a cliche 'if you aim for the moon and miss you'll end up amongst the stars... in the cold vacuum of space where nobody can hear you scream, and you may as well scream, it uses up more oxygen and you'll die faster. Which that said, is really a post 1969 world view, what most likely will happen is that you won't escape earths gravitational pull and you'll come crashing back down to earth. The best you can really hopefor is to land up in some tree, then you can pretend to be the robinson family crusoe.'

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

First Day Of School

On my first day of High-school I decided to be cool and walk. I'd also been cool and not gotten the backpack style school bag, but instead the over the shoulder block shaped school bag, which were much cooler. I think in the end I used to wear it like a backpack anyway.
Anyway, I was walking to school, at that point I was just 2 months out of grade 6 and Janice was still picking my haircuts for me. So that wasn't that cool. I had debated for 20 minutes or so that morning whether to pull my socks up or push them down. I couldn't decide which was cooler, they both seemed pretty uncool. They were gray, dark gray with a lightblue stripe and a green stripe. One really has to question who fucking designs uniforms and what the fuck they are thinking, I doubt anyone ever really thinks 'gray, green and blue, a winning combination!' anyway, I eventually decided that the consetinad accordian effect was less cool, and I should just pull my fucking socks up.
Again Janice was forking out the dough for uniforms, which meant unfortunately that my clothes all fit me pretty well, which isn't cool. I was probably anti-home-boy fashion back then, which tells you how uncool I was.
Anyway, I was walking to school, quietly shitting myself because I had no fucking idea what you did in highschool and all that shit, and where the fuck I went on my first day, or what the fuck I should learn.
The high school I was going to was known locally as 'High school' so it was like the original high school in Balifornia, and I was pretty sure I was cooler than my brother for going their instead of the crappy private school he went to.
Anyway, walking along, I was only a block or two into my journey along sturt st. This highschool kid on a bike pulls up, and he calls out to me 'hey! are you new? A year 7 or something?' and I nervously, thinking, here it is, my first beating in secondary and I hadn't even made it into the gates yet. (My other friend got beat up on orientation day), and the kid goes 'Hey man, push your socks down.' and then just rode off.
That was really fucking cool of him. I hope one day I am that cool.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Inverted Beauty

My friend Shona told me once about how at a Latin dance club the sexual politics strangely inverted. The old men were the phenomenal dancers, and what is rarely the case transpired. All the young beautiful women badly wanted to be picked as dance partner to lecherous old men, and nobody wanted to go with the young handsome studs.

In working on Super Secret Project 2, I have found this general principal to be affirmed, and thus deem it safe to talk about. Beauty is inverted when it comes to drawing in simple lines. Why? The central tenants of 'beauty' what is appealing to the eye, is symmetry and smoothness. Trying to capture this by carving lines into a page with a pencil is very difficult, it requires a lot of restraint.

One of the easiest ways to work on yur drawing for example is the contour technique. You literally feel an object with your eyes, press the tip of your pencil to the page and without looking at your work, imagine your pencil actually running on the contours of the object.

So maybe you can, maybe you can't, imagine running that along a pretty girls nose. Seems easy right? but then you look down and that pretty girl looks 80 years older than whatever reference you are working off. The more details you add to ascertain the shape the worse it looks.

Relatably, I was doing some portraits of some friends, and I found the most attractive of my friends, a young man with nary a blemish to speak of, was the hardest to capture in a picture, I wouldn't call the guy unexpressive or lacking in personality, but drawing wise, the best thing he had going for him was an above average sized nose. Attractiveness alas is paradoxically distinctiveness.

Yet drawing someone with a very lined face, with big ass lips and a broken nose, is an absolute pleasure. Drawing someone hungover, or in anguish, or scared, or with missing teeth, or lined with incredible age. These, these are what I love to draw, love to capture. This is beauty when it comes to drawing.

These are the people now that when I see them in the street thing, 'what a picture they would make' those that cry out for a photograph, they are petite, diminutive, plain, boring.

It's all topsy turvy. Art demands character, and I never really realised it before, but so much of what society puts up on a pedestal as beautiful, is merely an absence of offense. There is no character, no expression, no story to read.

It's the celebration of 'the virgin' the girl with no life experience, no sexual encounters, no personality to resist what? what the fuck does that say about society? I've never slept with a virgin, and I hope never to have the mispleasure. I know somebody has to, but I'm thankful it isn't me.

Success does not consist of avoiding failure, in the same way I now believe beauty is not the absence of imperfections. Beauty is attitude, and it is experience. It's actually being able to wear your face and have it say something.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


For reasons I won't disclose I was curious about the term 'bogan' and then stumbled across the term 'chav' which I had encountered before in an artwork entitled 'Queen of the Chavs' by Aly Fell. I latched onto the term at the time, because Bryce when he's been talking about the BBC youth drama 'Skins' had been telling me a caveat that British youth weren't like any other. They loved coating themsleves in instatan, peroxiding their hair to the nth, and getting it braided.
This again made an impression on me because on the streets of Glasgow I had been stopped by a young lady who fitted this description perfectly.

Now in the wikipedia article all these impressions condensed into a compulsion to go from bogan to chav to truly appreciate the difference. Here's an excerpt:

Burberry is a clothing company whose products became associated with the "chav" stereotype. Burberry's appeal to "chav" fashion sense is a sociological example of prole drift, where an up-market product begins to be consumed en masse by a lower socio-economic group. Burberry has argued that the brand's popular association with "chav" fashion sense is linked to counterfeit versions of the clothing. "They’re yesterday's news", stated Stacey Cartwright, the CEO of Burberry. "It was mostly counterfeit, and Britain accounts for less than 10% of our sales anyway."[23] The company has taken a number of steps to distance itself from the stereotype. It ceased production of its own branded baseball cap in 2004 and has scaled back the use of its trademarked checkered/tartan design to such an extent that it now only appears on the inner linings and other very low-key positions of their clothing.[24][25] It has also taken legal action against high-profile infringements of the brand. In August 2006, a company introducing tuk-tuk vehicles into the south coast town of Brighton, England named one the "Chavrolet", which had it painted in the distinctive Burberry tartan. However, the company soon had to withdraw this vehicle when Burberry threatened proceedings for breach of copyright.[26]

Fascinating. I have long been out of the marketing game, but there's always these things that take me back.

Interestingly, the preference for Burberry is actually shared by Japan. And that isn't the only cultural isomorphism, the preference for bleached hair and instatan, and to an extent even braids is shared by the Japanese tribe fashion of 'ganguro' (lit. 'black face') AND the Australian phenomena that I'm not sure is official but I describe as 'footy-chicks' because I'm pretty sure I've heard that before.

What's most fascinating is the 'prole drift' concept, that after numerous experiences society can't seem to get it's head around anywhere in the world.
It's sort of a free market vs. of revenge as George Orwell puts it:

Revenge is an act which you want to commit when you are powerless and because you are powerless: as soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also.

Which is one of my favorite quotes ever. I must have used it 6-times already. Or there's Groucho Marx's classic:


For some reason, people buy knock off handbags in China and South East Asia as if they are doing something clever. 'Chavs' appararently buy knock off Burberry Accessories for reasons beyond my comprehension. In this department Burberry is not alone, I had had it explained to me as to why Tommy Hilfiger and moreso, Polo Ralph Lauren had infiltrated hip hop culture, and that was a convoluted 'prole-drift' story if ever I heard one.

Step 1. Ralph Lauren became a staple of hip-hop wear because it was too expensive for any street kid to purchase, hence wearing it meant you had shoplifted something really expensive.

Step 2. Ralph Lauren gets street cred for being stolen all the time, hence wannabe hip-hop flavored rich people start legitimately buying Ralph Lauren clothing to immitate poor people.

Step 3. Supremely rich members of the Hip-Hop community (Puff Daddy, Jay-Z) when not wearing their own labels, legitimize the trend by endoursing it themselves.

Burberry just doesn't seem to want to make good on the chav movement. It seems nobody likes them.

Interestingly, the exception to all this is Japan, which I hate because I know they get off on nihonjinron and refuse to acknowledge themselves as just plain human beings, but in Japan, everyone has Burberry. Everyone.

But they don't buy knockoffs like people in the west do, they buy the real deal. Japan accounts for 30% of worldwide sales for Louis Vitton etc. They can spot fakes like nobodies business. You'd almost the cult of the brand had been part of their formal education.

But they like everyone else, don't get the concept of 'exclusive'. As Groucho Marx put it. The thing that makes luxury brands desirable to middle class societies like Australia, and Working class societies like Japan and the UK, is that you can't have it. When you have it, the value is gone.

If you scaled Angelina Jolie's income to your own, you would find that her Prada bag is the equivalent of a $10 handbag to us. Plus, the value is not in the utility, sure it may be made out of quality materiels, that feel smoother, or feel organic, the stitching doesn't come apart and the zippers don't get stuck. But it's still a bag full of shit dangling from your arm. Utility wise it's as valuable as a couple of plastic bags, it can be used for transporting a bunch of shit.

Nobody is ever in the situation where they say: 'Thank god that handbag was made out of italian leather by European artisans, if I had a pleather bag that bear would have devoured us for sure!' Doesn't happen.

The GFC is interesting because it sort of buried the marketing story of the 90's and 2000's which was finding a way to cram more diamonds onto any surface to keep feeding the prole drift. There simply was no item luxurious enough that people could ever feel themselves to be exclusive, because whatever diamond studed mobile phone or necklace came out, it was mass produced, mass marketed and mass consumed.

They Japanese may react differently to the same stimulus, which is that they buy a real Louis Vitton instead of a fake one, but we are all the same in wanting to purchase a lifestyle that we don't have, so that somehow some person on the street might think we are a movie star or ... well basically, that we haven't wasted our lives on a meaningless career. But in the end, it's no good lying to ourselves. We know we are singaporean, we know we grew up in ballarat, we know we lost WWII, we know our government sucks, we know we have no street cred, we know we work in a textile factory, we know we went to private school, we know we never won a fight, we know we aren't a movie star, we know we got divorced at 28...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Trip Hop

Apparantly there was some absence of female artists in triple j's hottest 100 of all time. I wouldn't know, because I didn't listen. I didn't listen because I didn't care. I thought I was hung up on the 90's but aparantly the list was dominated by 90's artists, most notably with Rage Against the Machine taking out the 2, and Nirvana taking out the 1.

And I have belaboured again and again, my lament at the death of grunge, it truly was awesomely lazy in a way punk never was. Pretentious maybe, but whatever.

I feel I have neglected another genre that saw it's hey-day in the 90's. You see the absense of girl-bands doesn't really surprise me. Because let's be honest, most girl acts even in alternative music movements survive on sex appeal. They are a novelty.
You would think the largest marginalised demographic would have some powerful messages of disenfranchisement to share with the world, but alas, it never seems to eventuate.

There are bands in what has been filthily labelled as 'Indie Rock' like Veruca Salt as a prominent example. Then you have the Gwen Stefani's and that bassist for Smashing Pumpkins etc. So within their were prominantly cool women. But still nothing like the torrent of cool guys that music seems to produce, everywhere from Mike Patton to Max Cavelera, guys seem to be leaders of their followings when it comes to music.

You read what they say and you savour every word. I've published Mike Patton's essay 'How We Eat Our Young' which had a big impact on my personal philosophy. Rage Against the Machine were some of the most influential on my political consciousness that I've ever encountered, they put me onto both Marcos and Chomsky.

But when it comes to women in rock, sure they have their followings, sometimes eclipsing cult figures like Patton, but they are the idol's not the leaders in my experience. They are held up, photographed, smeared across magazine covers, but nobody is really listening to what they are saying.

Madonna's book was titled 'Sex' for fucks sake. Lady Gaga mimics her, but it's David Bowie's Lightning Bolt she draws across her face. As far as I know, Madonna is really famous for masturbating on stage in the 80's (a mime act too) and Gaga is famous for taking her clothes off. Lil' Kim is famous for 'getting her eagle on' in a poster and singing about having her crack licked.

What also got buried in the 90's I think was the genre that was female artists at their coolist. Trip Hop, I'm thinking Portishead, Sneaker Pimps, Massive Attack and 90's hangovers like Lovage & Gorillaz.

I don't think there was anything gender specific about what makes trip hop good vs what makes grunge good. I just tend to notice that the 'good' trip hop acts seemed to be vocalised by females, it also tended to originate from Bri'ain, just like Grunge tended to be fronted by dudes and originate from Seattle.

My personal working theory is that it tended to hark back to the sultry sexy graniness of jazz club days, which was probably the last time female performers outshone the men in any music genre. Okay, not on the trumpets and shit, but singing, I think of 'Fever' when I think of Jazz, not Louis Armstrong scatting, infact when I think of 'scat' I think of it's horriffic porno connotations these days.

Anyway, enough, Trip Hop, I salute you.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Super Secret Project 2

I wish I could talk to you about it, but I can't. I won't, I don't want to. Unlike Fear of A White Planet, I won't be mailing copies over the world. I'm contemplating not putting my name to it, but I feel that would defeat 1/2 the purpose of it. Is the other half worth it though?

So I'll just talk to you about drawing, as in the end, my second project is going to be an amalgamation of drawing and blog post-esque essays/rants. Except I'll actually proof read and bother to spellcheck the contents of SS2. I've done the pencils for 2 compositions thus far, and am working on a third today.

I got sick of the mess of drawing and redrawing lines back in FOWP days, cleaning it up digitally was no picnic either, and I think it shows. So I've taken two steps to counter this. The first is to actually practice and figure out on paper my compositions, before going for the 'big wazoo' straight up. It means I'll see my mistakes, enabling me to learn from them, and also approache a blank page with some concept of space, anatomy etc.

On the surface it should be a lot less demanding draw than fowp, but that said, what you lose in detail, you gain in detail. So not having successive frames of talking heads and action sequences, I have to make up in background on the full page spreads. That sucks, it means I have to put more effort into composition.

Thinking about it, whilst I agree Da Vinci is the man, the more versatile, the more brilliant man of the renaissance, Michelangelo's school of thought is what I follow. As in I believe rather than blending in with nature, and attempting to imitate it, like Da Vinci, I like my characters to be elevated above the background, Super-natural if you would.

This super secret project allows me to shift styles, from abstract to real, from ink and brush to pen, to charcoal. It's good. I think I will/have develop a lot from this experience as an artist.

I wish I could talk about the subject matter, because it has been provokative to think about all kinds of interesting things. Alas, I don't wish to discuss it with you, here, now, or ever.

And I don't want to give the impression I'm baiting the hook, if you know me, know this: I really don't want you to read this one. Ever. I'm not trying to tease you, spike your curiosity and have you sneak into a store and buy a copy.

I imagine after publishing it, I will have boughts of paranoia around people I know, where I turn red and break into a sweat, suspecting that you know what I've done, and that you know I don't want you to know, and so you won't say you know, so I won't ask if you know, hence I don't know if you know, but you know that you know, but you also know that I don't want to know that you know. Simple, right?

The other thing I've done for the pencil roughs is to shift to 2H pencils. I use a .5 clutch pencil (or mechanical pencil) which is arguably Japan's greatest technological contribution of the 20th century. I hated them for years, but once I got me one, they just make everything so easy.

But HB is too damn messy for me. I don't have the light touch, and I rework and rework shit too often. I wanted something harder, and lighter. Harvard suggested I try just H, but no, I had to go for 2H. I'm literally fucking amazed at the difference.

It takes some getting used to, because it is quite surprisingly, twice as hard HB. It squeeks when I draw, that's how hard it is. The only danger is, you need to always use a light touch. If you get hasty and apply pressure to darken a line instead of tracing it a few times lightly, you end up carving the line into the page. So when I erase sometimes, a figurative trench is left in the image.

Anyway would like to disclose more, but I would hate to disclose something I may regret.

Morale of the story: If you know me personally don't buy my next solo publication, if by chance you do and we meet someday, pretend to your utmost you've never read it, or even heard of me.

The ever growing list of things I hate to draw

Numero fucking uno - Bicycles.

This is sad, because I love bicycles, but they are hard to fucking draw. On the weekend I was on 10k+ run with a friend and I said to her: 'no matter how many times I run a course, my mind just automatically forgets all the straights, so my perceptual distance of a run is always way shorter than the actual' or something to that effect.
Yet a bicycle something I see every day, from every concievable angle in every concievable model, is something that I spend more time looking at and when it comes to drawing them, my mind completely forgets how to put them together.
That makes drawing their profile hard, but put them on an angle, fucking forget it.
Originally doing fear of a white planet, I had planned on bikes being that societies major form of transportation. After page 3 I decided running would be the new number one.

El nombre twix - Bow and Arrow.

Fuck, I just could never get the perspective right on these, they always ended up totally and unforgivably fucked. The hands never lined up, the arrow jumps around the fingers it rests on, the string is being stretched at some odd tanget to the bow. They are just fucking impossible. I bet the first job DC comics ever gives me is drawing on 'The Green Arrow'.

Numerous diablos trios - Umbrellas.

This one I discovered tonight, and isn't restricted just to umbrella's. Also brollys and parasols. They are probably the next hardest 'sphere with straight lines' to construct as a toothpast tube, where one has to smoothly reconcile a spherical top with a flat line bottom. Try doing it, you'll never get a fresh tube of toothpaste to appear on your page. Shape so simple, yet, incomprehendable.
Anyway I'm sensible enough to not draw new tubes of toothpaste, but the umbrella. Aaaaargh, it fucking sucks. When I look at my creation it jars worse than anything I ever jarred before. Including numerous AFL marking disasters.
Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Enjoy the Fun of Real"

Maybe, just maybe if I work at it for 10,000 hours as Malcolm Gladwell recommends, I might make comics to rival Alan Moore at his best. But I'm now fairly certain I will never tickle the bottom of Takehiko Inoue's feet.

It's painful waiting for week by week installments of 'Vagabond' his Miyamoto Musashi biopic, and I was even beginning to think when he had ten successive chapters about ghosts and apparitions, that maybe he'd lost it.
But I decided to check out his other series 'Real'. What's amazing is just how 'Real' it is. As in, I knew why he decided to do a series about wheelchair basketball. Just implicitely. But I didn't want to read it.

I don't know why, I think I just didn't want to be exposed to the usual uplifting story about cripples overcoming their own personal everests.
Through sheer physical geometry it's just impossible to look up to characters in a wheelchair.

But fuck... he just... can tell a fucking story. Like no other. And nothing seems overly manufactured or engineered. It's fucking tragic, it's funny, it's moving, it's inspiring. It's just so fucking 'Real'. If Take-chan set himself a high bar in the title, he is leaping over it like there's nothing else.

There's just such a deep psychological understanding of what is going on, he never chooses the obvious path. He can have bad stuff happen to arsehole characters and have you feeling for them. He can create really beautiful people and put them in the body of a drop-out.

Perhaps most mastefully, is that he can attack a concept from three different angles in one narrative without you being painfully conscious of it (as compared to the compartmentalised psychological profiles of the protagonists of 'Watchmen' from Rawjack the moral absolutist to Veidt the Machiavellian consequentialist.)

And he just has that underlying secret, that 'whatever you can do, that's what you focus on' and tells it without pulling any tricks, any surprises, anything.

Once again, to me reading about the handicapped is about as entertaining as watching a movie about the elderly, but Real is actually a lot like Grand Torino - it is done so well it is elevated to one of the best reads, ever, out of anything.

If anyone legitimises comics as a medium it will be Takehiko Inoue.

You can read it here

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Breakfast Machine

I just finished reading 20th Century Boys, and whilst it was engrossing it left me unsatisfied. But perhaps that's in a good way as I'll probably be thinking about it for days and days.

I called this 'The Breakfast Machine' because the taste 20th Century Boys left me with, was that of Pee Wee Herman's breakfast machine, or on a generic level A Rube Goldberg Machine.

These days I just feel like any Manga artist that actually concludes a series deserves hearty applause, but for 20th Century Boys, my immediate verdict is that it's probably the most ambitious series in the sci-fi genre since Akira, but at the same time is no Akira.
Which perhaps isn't fair, because I've only seen the movie of Akira, and maybe they cut out a heap of superfluous shit too.
Did I ever tell you how rare it is for me to be satisfied by something though? Particularly in comics, I wouldn't even say 'Slam Dunk' was satisfying, because it just ended so abruptly. But it is probably the best comic series ever when I think about it, and I could have easily accepted the ending if the final game was the championship and not 2-3 rounds prior to it.
For me the biggest achievement in comics, doesn't belong to one artist, one writer etc. But I would award it to the editors that over saw the Batman: No Man's Land saga/story-arc. That was fucking perfect, but is obviously handicapped because it presumes so much familiarity with Batman's world. It doesn't stand alone. I could give it to a Biafran kid and say here check it! Because that kid would be all like 'Who's this Lex Luthor guy and why do I care if he comes to town?' and 'What's so scary about some clown? I don't get his fucking jokes, what a lame-ass.'

Anyway back to 20th Century Boys. One things Western Comics really suck at, (in the same way as Hollywood vs. Italian cinema sucks at) is generating emotional involvement in the characters. I think that's why writers like Loeb and Moore stand out.
I mean in a nutsack, Is 20th Century Boys worth reading? I would say 'yes' with little hesitation.

Anyway 3 things I learned either about myself (objectively) or writing (subjectively) from reading this:

It gave me the insight that 'unputdownable' doesn't actually refer to... as I'd always assumed, that every page or whatever is intensely enjoyable.
I realised reading this, that it's a precise combination, and perhaps psychological trick whcih is that 'it's unputdownable' because you are perpetually denied resolution. If there's a story, like a short story, within the greater story, the author has a tendancy to terminate it before a resolution is reached. Even more skillfully/annoyingly - he portrays a character having the revelation, but denies you the reader that revelation.
Then you find yourself turning the page and the storyline has shifted.
I'm of two minds, I have to admit, that it works, and that I'm a sucker for it. But I have to qualify it as a tactic: the most perfect example of abusing this technique is in psychological thriller 'The Game' in which a wealthy businessman recieves an invitation to participate in 'The Game' from his brother for his birthday. The game begins, and the viewer is left wondering what the fuck is going on, and furthermore what this mysterious game is, as it seems to just fuck with the protagonists mind and life and even threaten to kill him from time to time. The problem is that the mystery is extended by giving multiple - misleading explanations, and this ultimately denies you from ever accepting the actual resolution when it comes. When I saw that I literally thought, and my friend literally said 'as if you would accept that explanation after all he's been through!'.
So too with 20th century boy, the central mystery of 'friend' is strung out for so long that I was almost on the point of giving up on the story. And ultimately, I just stopped caring about the identity, as I lost confidence that any explanation would actually be satisfying.
The next qualifier is that I actually found the mystery of 'will Kenji get with Yujiki' of much more personal interest to me, and that involved little 'mystery' at all, it was just a straight forward question, but the author does a much better job of making you care about the characters than he does of caring about the mystery, such that this simple question 'will they get together?' becomes far more motivating for me to read on, than 'what's going on and why is it happening?' ever did.

The second major insight into myself/writing was to do with recursion. Art has an obsession with the new, with pushing boundaries etc. and every artist wants to create some seminally new and innovative work. Recursion is where you have something embedded within itself, eg a story in a story, a poem about a poem, a painting of a painting etc. And 20th Century boys is a manga that talks about manga.
Which is fitting because so much of the story is told in reference to childhood dreams, follies and innocence. And manga is a big part of it.
The thing though, is that the author almost sets himself/herself up to fail when he talks about manga in the manga.
Without hitting spoilers, he uses manga artists within the story to pose a question 'how do we end it? heroes are defined at the peak of their heroism, at the end they either ride off into the sunset or they die.' (I'm paraphrasing) which is sort of clever, because he points out that stories tend to conform to this binary outcome. A depressing ending where they die, or an uplifting (but equally terminal) ending where they ride off.
Which is clever, because it illustrates the problem facing the author themselves. How to avoid these two cliches, in a way that offers resolution and emotional closure on the story, whilst not being cliched?
After setting up this clever commentary, I expected the author to attempt to do something with it, but alas, he doesn't.
He just makes you aware of the challenge, then really ignores the challenge. Or if you will, he points to the frontier, then walks back inside and sits down with a coke.
Thanks for the pointer, but is it up to me to push that boundary? A similar thing happened in 'Y the last Homo-sapien' where the protagonist encounters a theatre-group that are making a play about the fictitious current situation. That is there is one man left alive, which serves as a recursive narrative within the narrative.
I almost applauded that writer because in it the actual last man, asks the playwright (who are portraying a fictitious last man) how their play ends, and the author says 'the man kills himself so that the women have to save themselves' and the guy realises it's the perfect ending.
That set the challenge in that series of avoiding such a perfect-moralising end and coming up with something equally satisfying, except the ending just ended up a mess.
This tells me where I stand (something I already knew, but feel strongly now) on the Epic Pooh debate - that is should fantasy be pure escapism, or can it actually be about something.
I think it can be both, but the 'pure escapist' school has been done. If you go down this path though, you don't want to write a fairytale, and hence you look for new ways to resolve the same old stories.
When you are writing about something, you are employing an analogy, and an analogies cleverness lies in the cliche, hence hencely the author can be obliged to write to the cliche, in order to affirm the power of the message, the idea, that is what the story was written about.

So here I say that 20th Century Boys is exactly the type of story I like. It's an analogy that communicates a simpler idea in a complicated way to get a better appreciation of it. Now 20th Century Boy and my own attempt at a comic FOWP, are kind of the same idea, they are stories that are about something, but the stories are told in the setting of a sci-fi world.
FOWP scope is small, smaller than 20th Century Boys, but strangely I have the same criticism of both - overengineering. In mine, fowp, in order to max out the feelings of the climax, I hammered the same point over and over and over again - that the bad guy was bad. But sitting back afterwards, I always wonder if I killed off the tempo, or more appropriately, overkilled the tempo.
In 20th Century Boys I've got the priveledge of being a reader, and I can say in my verdict the author actually did. Probably because it was so ambitious anyway to begin with. But if I went so far as to say that there are 3 clearly identifiable movements to 20th century boy (and a 4th, epilogue movement) I never enjoyed 2 & 3 movements as much as the 1st one.
I don't think this was bach's 'little harmonic labyrinth' either, where the story is kicked off in the key of C, moves away from it, modulates to fool us into accepting a false resolution at the end of each movement, before the author cleverly delivers a big satisfying final resolution to C.
I actually have many questions on this point as to what I learned from the high points and low points of 20th Century Boys. The best framework is Kurt Vonneguts Guide:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

The author really breaks #9 to the point that it became infuriating, arguably aces #6, #4 is interesting because I think he reveals character at the expense of moving the story forward. #1 is probably the one that pissed me off the most, I felt numerous times, that the author was dicking me around.
Translators on the web leave these annoying self promotion pages that punctuate the reading experience, but one made the smart-arse remark at a point towards the end 'great another character to focus on, will this story ever end' and I knew at least that I was not alone.
Back to rule no 4 which I'm going to tie in with dues ex machina, Alan Moore talks about the shape of a story, I knew Fear Of A White Planet was sort of capacitor shaped, the storyline built up resentment and eventually releases. Which is probably an elementary shape.
Most are eliptical, that means you start a story very basically, you have to. Then you build up and expand the complexity of the world. More characters, more settings, more rules etc. This builds up to a point where the reader has a handle on the story, then you start to resolve it, that means every character introduced, you need to develope - give the reader info so they understand the significance. But this creates the burden of resolution - every character you introduce, you have to resolve.
The more characters you introduce, the longer it takes to resolve. Over engineering, makes your story into a 'Rube Goldberg Machine'
put simply, I wonder if by halving the number of characters 20th Century Boys would only have had to be 1/3rd of the length. And furthermore, whether whatever it was 'about' got lost, because the simple message is buried under all the cogs and mechanics of the characters.
The only excuse in my view is to comply with vonnegut's rule #6, in that the characters fail so many times, the pain becomes almost unbearable. There is a deep sense of regret and futility amongst the characters that interestingly, almost choose to 'live on their knees' rather than 'die on their feet'. Although this isn't how it's presented so much as 'live to fight another day' is the attitude, albeit it means they don't resolve today, nor do they resolve tomorrow for the same reasons as today and so on and so fourth.
Then there is 'deus ex machina' which is the bane of manga's existence, and why I would say that manga doesn't usually stand up against the best western comics (though it shits on the crappy offerings that make up 90% of the western comic book industry).
Thing is, I just don't know why manga, which is treated as legitimate literature and art form in Japan, isn't more self conscious of deus ex machina in their most celebrated texts. Dragonball Z used it heaps, where Goku would just reveal that he was even more powerful than he or anyone actually knew, when it came down to the line in any fight. Naruto does it, where characters just reveal they had one more trick up their sleeve that nobody knew about it. And 20th Century Boys does it, by retconning the flashbacks to reveal yet more characters everyone had forgotten about.

I compared it to '7 pounds' the Will Smith movie, where the director conceals from you the premise of the film for as long as possible. It is a useful trick, but as 20th Century Boys keeps pointing out 'you can't use tricks' whilst the author breaks this time and time again, namely, concealing from the reader what the characters already know in order to keep the suspense. The author then gets greedy, and for the big mysteries conceals even the clues (as in by only giving them to you just before the revelation, achieving deus ex machina in a sad case of self-sabotage).

All in all, Harvard's right, it is a damn good Manga, and it is moving and powerful, but I have to qualify that with - it's overengineered, frustratingly so. It had the potential to be such a powerful commentary on themes so central to Japanese culture today - groupism, bullying and taking responsibility. But all this gets buried due to the authors excesses, its indecisive in its execution, and again I defer to Harvard, the interesting question is how planned out was it when it was written? Or was it largely winged. If it is winged it's a masterpiece, if it was planned it falls short.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Divide

Probaly the biggest single influence on my blogging has been Harvard, and today is no exception. I think I was drawn to Harvard because, well not to be racist, the cultural divide betwixt me and him, is vastly smaller than the cultural divide between me and his many country men and women that I could equally have been drawn to in the time I lived with him in IH.
Infact there were many candidates from his home-country Malaysia that I lived with and have known longer. But Harvard wasn't like the others. There were none of the usual cultural traits that erected a wall betwixt me, or anyone becoming a friend/associate/aquaintence/cousin of Harvard's.
One I was most self conscious of was not having the balls to sit on a table with 10 or 12 Malay students that had clustered around the 8 seater tables to avoid anyone having to mix with the outgroup.

And I'm not picking on Malaysian's in particular. For example the Japanese students, even though their population was around 3 or 4 at a time, used to form pretty impenetrable groups, and even though I had conversational Japanese I couldn't break into the group. Most of my Japanese friends from IH, I made friends with after we had all moved out.

Harvard was one of those bridging people. As in he would be friends with anyone, and as such could facilitate you meeting and intermixing with people you normally would only face across the abyss of the cultural divide.

I remember him taking me to a party in his building once, and me and our mutual friend a palastinian/australian were clearly on the outskirts of the party. People weren't friendly or unfriendly, they just didn't know what to do with us, and resolved to ignore us. I still found people to talk to, but it was like being in someones house and there's plastic covers on all the furniture. You just don't feel welcome to sit on anything.

I wonder if it was akin to the time I took Misaki and Kyoko to Balifornia for an Australia day party (a national holiday I recognise in terms of slacking off, but feel no particular devotion to the idea of 'Australia') and there were a few IH buddies from asian backgrounds, a Japanese host, my two Japanese friends, and I was just kind of embarassed that we ended up segregated from the other guests, who were 'really australian' and I kind of felt embarassed for them, because they didn't know how to talk to people that didn't share pretty much the exact same background as they did. The low point being when one of them really didn't trust two of the Malaysian pals to operate his bbq.

And I guess I got lazy and thought that Harvard was more like well, a caucasian than an asian. And by that I mean, he's pretty intrinsic rather than extrinsic referencing. An individual, doesn't dress for status (though way classier than me), doesn't follow the herd. Doesn't give me the impression he is big into filial piety and all the usual cliche's.

Except recently because Harvard and I have been working together, and one could even argue competing against eachother (a no contest, with my amatuer design skills). I've become more aware now of the cultural divide between us.

Like when Harvard is a fan of Murakami's books, I used to suspect he was whiter than I am. But when it comes to creative differences, I wonder how much is cultural.

Take for example, Manga, for me reading manga (I guess its actually an improper noun? fuck I can't even remember what a proper vs improper noun is, nor whether it's improper or common) I have a way low tolerance of the psuedo science in them.

In western sci-fi, there's a subgenre called 'Ray Gun Gothic' which is where you have retro-futuristic technology (like a raygun) that is a specifically silly aesthetic, where you write a modern sci-fi with Buck Rogers-esque technology, even though such innovations have been discredited now.

But generally speaking, in western sci-fi, you go for extremes, either you attempt extremely plausible, realistic settings or you go for wacked out future fantasies like Star Wars or Dune series. There's no inbetween, such that if you have a realistic setting, and have sloppy psuedo-science you'll be criticised for being too kitsch or no where near kitsch enough.

Now if I can make some generalisations about impressions I've been given, manga is far more preferred not just in Japan but throughout China and South-east asia than western comics are. Its shaping up that Manga is going to engulf the western comic book world much as R&B dwarfs the entire rest of the music scene. But still I find that caucasian fans of manga tend to be fans of comics in general, whereas I've come across far more asian fans of manga that just won't give the western comic world the time of day. Far more dogmatic if you will.

And whilst Harvard isn't dogmatic, I more aware that he has a greater preference for manga than me, and a higher tolerence of psuedo-science in realistic settings for example.

The hard part is, seeing it the other way, like when he says 20th century boys is "THE manga that I think the story, substance and drawing surpasses even American graphic novels." and whilst I would actually agree that it probably is more moving than most American graphic novels, and maybe it scores a 7 in the story, substance and drawing criteria, it isn't a fair comparison to say that's better than a work by Alan Moore like 'From Hell' that scores a 10 for story, 8 for substance and a middle of the road 5 for art. Perhaps cultural divider one (or perhaps just personal) is that story trumps artwork. (there's certainly many western comic creators that think the reverse).

I haven't finished 20th century boys yet, but it'll have to beat when I put 'Watchmen' down after reading it the first time, and sat around for an hour just thinking about poor Rorschach. I guess also, I like economy in a story whether it be novel, graphic novel or brochure (ironic for someone with such a history of inefficient blog posts), and I suspect that 20th Century Boys strings the reader along, when the point could be made in a third of the time whilst retaining the essential and strongest characters and doing away with a bunch of other ones, even at the cost of emotional investment in the characters.

And it applies to movies as well, discussing with Harvard we had almost inverse evaluations of 'Apocalypse Now Redux' and '7 Pounds' etc. (unless when Harvard described Apocalypse Now as 'painful' he meant it as 'he felt the characters pain, and self destruction as they approached the heart of darkness, and nihilistically accepted his fate, before returning a hollow shell of himself' which was precisely the point, and precisely why I liked it so much.

And then there's other shit, like he doesn't seem to appreciate ribbing at all. Often debating my insults, or worse, shrugging them off as a waste of time. Is this like when I was in China, and my friend explained his Uncle shouted and spoke loudly to create a warm and friendly atmosphere in just the same manner an Australian would describe someone as having had too much to drink, and was a real liability?

Or is the divide more personal, as in personal tastes and preferences? He's an escapist where I'm a deconstructionist? He likes chilli in his cooking, I like offensiveness in my art? you know all that shit.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Guys Guide to Getting Dumped

At last something I can actually offer a Masterclass on, I may even try and get a pitch for my show 'Master-dead-beat' where I can tell how any person can excel at the art of being good-for-nothing. Running the contestants through a gauntlet of challanges designed to push their shamelessness to the limit. Hopefully this guide is less informative/more entertaining than the last one but no guaruntees:

1. Don't Trust Yourself

Consider this a handicap, I start out seriously. But I think possibly my greatest strength in character is that I don't trust myself. I am constantly plagued by the question 'am I the arsehole here?' and whilst not always successful, does often have me rethinking my behaviour.
In the context of getting dumped, this suspicion should be raised to the level of paranoid. 'Hey, maybe it isn't the best idea to go burn my name into her lawn?' and 'Gee perhaps I shouldn't turn up to her graduation and ask her to marry me?' and the like.
Think of it as akin to when you are trying to tidy up your diet. You mentally acknowledge that you should cut out the refined sugar products and yet - suddenly you find yourself purchasing a candy bar with your lunch. Pure compulsion.
Your about 10 times more vulnerable after getting dumped to acts of compulsion.
You are going through a grieving process, one of those bizarre circumstances where someone can be both alive, but cease to be the person you know and love. Hence your brain will trip out, going into shock, denial, etc.
As I understand it, part of these unusual mood cycles is the flooding of your brain with chemicals that can allow you to survive.
Thus whatever you are thinking of doing, run it past a friend. Better yet, get yourself in councilling as quick as you can. One of the surprising things when I went to councilling, was that my councillor was telling me the same shit in all 3 sessions. It just took 3 for it to sink into my organically drug addled brain.

2. 'An Idea cannot be removed by reason that was not created by reason in the first place'

Or something. Basically you can't argue your way out of getting dumped. By all means, ask questions. Just don't sit up all night writing a socio-economic-political breakdown into subheadings with substantiating statistics as to why you should actually still be together.
Chances are, the time for rational adult debate is passed. Ultimately your partner dumped you at the point they felt they had to. Because dumping someone is unpleasant. It's like telling your boss they are a douchebag and nobody likes them.
But yeah, I have never ever heard of anyone getting together because somebody made a really good point about the geographical proximity/ratio of mutual friends to individual friends/financial benefits of staying together.
You are much better off making appeals to emotion, describing your emotions. But the magnitude in which this is better is minimal. Over do it, and you come across as a whining unattractive prick.
You just want to let them know that it wasn't your choice to break up, your choice would be to stay together, because you love them, like them etc.

3. Responsibility

There's two circles of control that from a distance may seem to overlap, but when you get closer you realise they are far apart.
The first is your partners circle of control, in that they control their decision to stay in the relationship or not. To paraphrase my councillor 'she has made a decision about your relationship that you were not a part of' which any one is entitled to do. But your circle of control contains your own little piece of tasty pie.
Namely, that you have control of how you react, not your partner. Your partner can't dump you in a, well let's say, surprising situation of being single and expect you to handle it with dignity and maturity. The limitations of her/his/blinky the sheeps control doesn't extend as far as how you should OR do take the news.
Don't cover your shame by saying it was 'mutual' or 'amicable', just put on a brave face and say 'she dumped my sorry arse'.
I'm getting ahead of myself - take responsibility for your action on the one hand, whilst at the same time, don't let some bitch who dumped you tell you you should be mature enough to come to an intimate dinner party alone being hosted by her new avante gaurd fuckhead boyfriend. It's something Lao Tzu would have said if he had dated college girls.
So when you take responsibility, try and act maturely, and by that I think adopt the attitude that its too late, let your partner know the ball is in your court and then... excuse me while I vomit... concentrate on just being the best damn you you can be.

4. Hedge your Regrets

SO you have councilling, you ask your friends if you are being an arsehole, you tell your mutual friends you got dumped. You politely and inaudibly tell the new boyfriend to 'fuck off and die I don't want to be your friend'.
You are finally getting around to those Modern-Interpretive Dance Classes you always thought it would be funny to do, and you are volunteering to check interstate travelers for fruit-fly infected fruit.
With these accomplished, or at least undertaken, you can hedge your regrets. That is to say, a wise-ish friend said to me 'it's important to do the things you would regret not trying'.
Case in point, I have proposed to one girl in my life (to my recollection, I hope it was only one, but now find myself not so sure), knowing I would be resoundingly rejected. Except it was a year or two after I got dumped. What was the point? Well I just felt that someday I would possibly regret never having asked her. And better far far too late than never.
But it may not be that extreme. It's just you may regret not asking them to come back. Or move in with you. If you have your shit together, or have the shit together of getting your shit together, this is a safe place from which to let the said person know that, if they came back or whatever you would welcome them with open arms.
This contrasts with those that react 'get out of here bitch, I never want to see you again for as long as I live.' and come through on the threat by deleting their number from their memory, removing them from their facebook friends. Blocking their emails, and burning their face off of any photos they had.
You can hedge your bets by leaving a few bridges unburnt. Or just ask for their number again when you feel up to resuming diplomatic relations. Or when you have a new better partner that makes you forget why you even cared.
Don't find yourself alone in a room with your regrets and no unsullied photos to remember her/him/blinky the sheep by.

5. Masterclass - Smelling the dumpuing coming

Okay, once you've been dumped a couple of times, its time to step it up a notch. With experience you will learn to pick up on the early warning signs. You have a shitty girlfriend when they dump you at their house/place and force you to make the walk home. But this isn't as bad as it might first appear.
Allow me to explain. Because as afore mentioned the process of dumping someone is akin to having to gut a fish or something, it is unpleasant and typically people give it 'one last go' until they release that they have to go through with the face to face break up.
This 'one last go' takes the form of your partner ostensibly beign your girlfriend, but for some reason doesn't laugh at anything you say (okay maybe you just aren't funny), doesn't want you holding them/touching them in any way and smirking at the suggestion of physical intimacy.
You will find yourself pissed off and confused, on that night and probably for the entirety of the next day. An amatuer says 'well fuck her, I'll get my own back by refusing sex with her next time she wants it' oh my, what a faux pa, what a blunder! A master, knows and accepts that they are getting dumped, like a samurai who walks onto the point of his opponents sword, to get within striking distance of the jugular.

You need to play the part. First of all, ward off any suggestion that she might dump you over the phone. If she says 'we need to talk.' cut her off there and say 'you are right, I'll head on over and we can settle this face to face.' you just bought yourself 20 or so minutes more of relationship. Potentially the most valuable 20 minutes or so of the whole relationship.
If you play your cards right this will leave her nervous and anxious, suddenly faced with the prospect of having to commit to this horrifyingly unpleasant putting down of the puppy she bought that was cute and convenient, but has now grown into a mangey responsibility.
Head on over. Once you get there, slip on in. Now is the time to avoid eye-contact and the 'elephant in the room' which is 'it's over'. But you need to do it in a very specific way.
You need to walk immiediatly to the CD or bookshelf, or whatever other item of interest it is you want to take with you. As she tries to initiate the end, you change the subject abruplty by...wait for it... asking if you can borrow shit!

Yes, this has a surprisingly high success rate in my experience, as the concerns most pressing to her right now make CDs, books, photo-albums, Nintendo DS's etc all seem like mere possessions (it is a grieving process after all) and thus, she may flippantly agree.
It also makes for a little insurance for her, thus if she feels the need to slink over to your place with an innocent pretext, just to make sure you haven't picked up on the rebound, she knows she can always pretend to be asking for that borrowed item.

Once you get concent, no matter how vague. Keep said item in your hands at all times. If you are really practiced, you might say 'ooh I may as well take this one as well, I've always kind of liked Pearl Jam etc.' (never take the Jeff Buckley CD, you increase your chances of killing yourself 10 fold).

With a little practice, you then sit through a cold awkward conversation. Let the emotions wash over you, if you feel anger, clutch tightly that CD/Book/electronic appliance like it is the imagined face of whatever jerk cut your lunch.
If you feel sad, hold onto that CD/Book/electronic appliance like it's the only thing you will have to remember them by.
If you go into shock, you will probably cope best of all, but hold onto that CD/Book/electronic appliance as if it is your safety line as you absail down a cliff.

One caveat, I don't endorse stealing, I just argue that this is possibly the best time to borrow something, like in the old days, if you borrowed a video overnight on Saturday and the store was closed Sunday, you had until Monday! Be prepared for the possibility that you may be asked to return the borrowed item. But a master looks to profit from all situations, even one as lose-lose as getting dumped. After all things get lost ;)

2nd caveat, in particularly bitter break-ups and divorces, petty possessions can be the basis of prolonged pain and bitter bitter arguments, even legal action that results in appearing on televesion to have Judge Judy belittle both your intelligences. If you were attracted to your partner because of their stubborn take-no-prisoners-attitude. I suggest not borrowing anything, and maybe even leave a basket of muffins.

So I bet you couldn't believe that was my actual advice. Well it is.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Tears of bitter amusement

Facebook, it used to be as controversial and confusing as twitter is now in the media. Albeit I never heard 'PBS is now on facebook' as corporations couldn't have a facebook profile.

Anyway, I don't know about you, but I am far closer to 'never' looking at anyone elses profile or photo albums than 'sometimes'.

But recently I was inspired to actually traul through some albums (and it looks like I've caught the appauling engrish that I found there).

You see I started from more or less the beginning and am now two days in and 6 photo albums down. 3 albums a day is more than plenty for me.

But after a somewhat boring start I began crying, crying from laughter, then implausably crying at the fact that I was laughing, then laughing from crying and so on and so fourth.

There were comments written in a distinctive and surprising style that is the first time I've laughed at shit in these albums.

Throwaway comments like:

mmm, the river under the highway, I'd guess you'd have to offer me a handjob from rough-hands-dan to get me to swim in there.

but then your army has to turn a corner soon as you get in. I'm guessing this is the first 'im' in impregnable like a smokers black ovaries.

wtf? how random. Rough-hands-dan? impregnable like a smokers black ovaries?

I'm not laughing now because well, the element of surprise is gone.

But what is truly tragic is that I wrote them. It's taken me a year to actually forget them too. Which means now I have yet another way to amuse myself, but this one doesn't involve any rough-hands. Well I guess technically it does.

But truly it is tragic, I find something degrading about finding yourself funny. The concept of being able to make myself laugh just seems strange, alien and sinful to me.

Sure sometimes when I think of something that is just so inappropriate that I end up suspiciously chuckling to my self and laughing out my nostrils in the midst of a Eulogy or ANZAC day service or Ann Frank's house, it is true to say that I made myself laugh, except that I'm actually laughing at the horrified reaction of whatever 'audience' is there. Only Micheal Jackson's dad has the balls to do something this inappropriate.

But the idea of me strolling down some boulevard, hand in hand with myself as a crack jokes that make me chuckle and giggle is truly repugnant. It is only slightly worse than the idea of me practicing standup material in the mirror.

But then you see performers like Billy Connelly laugh at themselves on stage all the time, except I think in that case it reveals more the inner workings of the human mind, unlike the sad state of affairs that led me to think myself funny.

Billy Connelly gets amused at the images his mind is constructing to illustrate a point, or empathising with the audience.

Me I was all alone, in a dark room with a computer. It was a real guilty pleasure. Worse than masturbating, and one of those rare insights into my own life, and more bizarrely the lives of those freaks that actually find me funny from time to time.

Because perhaps one of the most inaccurately applied statements of all time is the 'you think you are so funny' which for me there is no less true statement. I actually have never found myself particularly funny. And even when I do, in a banal, tired and formulaic way. It is hard to accept compliments about being funny, unlike say being told you are handsome.

If someone tells you you are handsome it is plausible that you would go to a mirror and say 'shucks I am a bit of a knockout' stand in front of a mirror and try and make a witty quip and you won't laugh, I almost guarantee it. You'll probably say 'what the fuck are you doing?' and throw your hands up in disgust.

It's as physically impossible as tickling yourself. Because the anticipation, the surprise the 'prestige' if you will is too knowable.

Except I found this amazing ability that you can actually just write stuff down and it will lay in wait, crouching low ready to ambush you from the long grasses of history. You can't do that with a tickle, tickle some air so vigorously, that when you walk past it later it tickles you back or something.

But yeah, I feel dirty. But I kind of like it.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Contender 73

Today, or as you would, yesterday, the LA Lakers signed Ron Artest who jumped ship from Houston for a slight pay cut alegedly when learning Yao's foot won't heal for most of next season.
Ron Artest is a 2 time defensive player of the year, replacing the solid contributor (particularly in the Denver series) at the 3 position.
This is I can not help the hyperboli, this team is comparable to Chicago's own bad boy trio of Jordan, Pippen & Rodman. The thing being that Instead of Pippen you have Pao Gasol and Lamar Odom.
If Ron Artest can slot into the triangle offence then they could be contenders for the 73 wins to make them the winningest team in history.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The GFC Grand Conspiracy Unveiled

I was talking to a friend in Queensland last night which made me realise I was sitting on something so spectacular, so terrifying that it is my duty to report it here in the web-democratised and thus remarkably un-quality assured blogosphere, to bring the shady truth to you all.

The GFC was caused by a conspiracy, a conspiracy more terrifying than you could ever imagine. I uncovered this shadow organisation, hiding in plain sight using the age old maxim of 'follow the money' let's follow this US paper trail/Australian Plastic Trail.

1. Who controls the government?

Okay, I've pointed out before the coincidence that Australia a coal rich country, happens to believe that 'clean coal' is one of the best ways to tackle climate change, where Canada an asbestos rich country, happens to think that asbestos is perfectly fine building material if handled properly.
This coincidence was not sarcastic, I was implying that big business and industry can exert influence over our government. This is nothing revelationary, since the invention of privatised mass communication mediums, namely radio and television and the competitive advantage these hold over public broadcasting systems, the price of running for office has increased dramatically. Thus one can say that whilst 'the people' get a vote, more crucial is having the campaign contributors in the first place. The US has a slip-up, in that all donations need to be available on the public record. But in Australia no such policy exists, so while I can't 'name and shame' the specific evil cabal of big business, I can assure you that big business do pull the strings on policy by dominating campaign contributions to the two major parties.

2. But who controls big business?

Well it's obvious really, the executives. The clue is in their job title, they 'execute' their dastardly amoral machiavellian capitalist schemes to destroy the planet.
In chief the big giveaway is a collection of Cheif Executive Officers or 'CEOs' that pull the strings of the executives below them. Surely this is the ruling elite? Well no, as it is not shadowy enough to avoid detection, plus we see them getting fired, bought out, sent shipping all to often in these disastrous times, but like the government gets bought with big business money, who is the shadowy figure that pays these golden handshakes, or golden parachutes to the CEOs? Well we must follow the money further down this rabbit hole.

3. But who controls the CEOs?

And this is where we are heading into new frontiers, as normally the shadow conspiracy scapegoats their well paid sacrificial goats aka CEOs whenever they feel the heat, but it is known that in any publically traded company, the CEO is answerable to a mysterious group of unelected officials known as 'the board'. The CEO actually takes a remarkable amount of direction from them, and they in turn draw up the CEOs contract which often includes the deliverables that oblige the CEO to structure the companies activities in such a way.
The board set the agenda and are the watchdogs of the CEOs stewardship over the company and thus they have the power to hire and fire CEOs. Very powerful indeed. But alas, someone pays the boards wages, and they to represent shadowy figures that exert their subtle influence over eveything in the background.

4. But who controls the board?

The board exists to protect the interests of the Shareholders, whom are large and numerous and have trouble speaking for themselves, except and here we are finally getting to the truth! the truth that is proverbially 'out there', for certain large players in the sharemarket, groups that have warchests of money gifted to them to pay them to control the very running of boards, CEOs, big business and by extension the government!
These large players are the Fund Managers! See how plain and terrible it is, the ones with the hands on the purse strings are those that manage the funds! aka Fund Managers. These people have swathes of cash to buy large stakes in companies that allow them to hold the majority of votes in the shareholder AGM. When they say jump, the board and CEO in unison shout 'how high' and they literally say '14%' on last year.
Here, here at last we surely have the machiavellian cabal controlling world events from the shadows?

5. But who controls the funds?

The fund managers after-all just manage the funds, where do these funds come from? Finally the man-behind the curtain is unveiled. Well these come from the customers of the managed funds. Largely these funds are provided by big business itself, paid to the employees through the device of Super-annuation, the employees who now hold the power to pick and choose between not just funds, but fund managers, financial advisors with all the freedoms of your everyday consumer.
Because of this, the fund managers have to compete with eachother day in day out to deliver the maximum return to their customers, these ravenous shadow figures who pull ALL the strings, all billion of them. If you are a fund manager and you get 14% return one year, an incredible amount, but your customers friend gets 19%, an 'unsustainable figure' these evil-doers don't care, they will switch funds in the blink of an eye chasing the bigger slice of pie. This means the fund managers to keep the funds that give them their power have to go to all the businesses they own and scream and jump and yell for them to ring out profits anyway they can. To take whatever risks necessary, to deregulate themselves and push product out the door, pull customers in, give them credit cards, stop asking for income documentation. Just keep the party rolling and keep the party loud.
This string pulling fiasco of puppets controlling puppets who control yet more puppets that control more puppets is the chain of evil all leading back to approx. 1 billion shadowy figures, at last the puppet master is...

6. You!

And if not you, probably, almost definitely your parents. Yes the truly terrifying thing about this Conspiracy Diabolic is that it isn't the Queen, Warren Buffett, Rupert Murdoch, Dick Cheney and the Colonel sitting around some table dressed in robes.
What is terrifying is that it's your mum and dad, sitting around a dinner table with their douchebag friends, discussing various investments in real estate, shares, commodities and middle eastern policy all subjects they are extremely unlikely to know anything about. Few enough people in this world understand what inflation means, or how money works, or who sets the interest rates, or how they are set, or even elementary concepts like risk, profit, return on investment, capital etc.
Yet they are happy to look at two numbers and decide one is bigger, a startling reality for fund managers, their customer is always right! therefore it doesn't matter if your result is great, so long as their is nobody out their greater, and the only way to ensure that is to adopt shortterm thinking, gut companies of any redundant staff in order to create a bigger dividend yeild. Forget tomorrow, your customers don't have the knowledge the discipline, the imagination to think that far ahead. All that matters to them is whether their grass is greener today.
Yes the shadow cabal of evildoers is hiding in plain sight. You probably (if you have a computer) are one of them, and you probably meet members of this axis of evil in every passing stranger on the street.
The only person to strike out at the 'real' enemy was perhaps Ghandi when he said 'be the change you want to see in the world'. The sad fact is that the politicians, big business, ceo's and boards of directors, fund managers and financial planners all know who their boss is, and they all know what is good for them.
Of course this shadow conspiracy can't be blamed for it's wrong doing, thus CEOs must walk, just for succumbing to board directives, who succumb to pressure from the fund managers, who are keeping an eye on the ever watchful financial planners and their excel spreadsheets, who in turn sit terrified at the blank, uninformed and stupid greedy faces of their soon to be retiring customers.

We would actually probably be better off if Warren Buffett controlled the world, as he seems to be a highly intelligent and for the most part ethical man. Alas we don't have anyone with the foresight to try and quash bad business practices behind the steering wheel. Insted we have this evil conspiracy of 1 billion people sitting behind the wheel pulling it in every direction that takes their fancy and demanding less regulation, less accountability, less foresight, less social responsibility, less character in politicians, less environmental regulation, lower safety standards, lower wages etc.

And they probably don't even know they are doing it.