Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Himilayas between Comics and Legitimacy

With SS2 well in hand and myself about to embark on the comic format again, my interest has been piqued by researching reference, styles etc. for drawing. It has actually forced me to read some comics, manga etc. I must conclude that Comics have arguably never been further from being a legitimate medium for art/literature.
Any headway made by Scott Douglas or Maus is firmly retracted and we are actually back to a lower point in my opinion than before the 80's. Which is rare, I mean rare that the 80's was actually the pinnacle and not the low point.
Here are the various barriers that make up the gap between here and legitimacy for comics.

Everest: Nerds.

Plain and simple, and not just any definition of nerds, my definition of nerds.
Most of everything hinges on the behaviour of nerds or the 'nerd dollar'. There must have been a few good writers before Alan Moore in the west, but none of Alan Moore's impact and profile come to mind. There were innovators, sure, like Stan Le, those guys that wrote 'Demon in a bottle' but none quite as philosophical or deconstructionist as Moore. Someone who took the essence of the comic book superhero and worked with it. Instead of writing gritty real life drama.
I don't want to write a love letter to Alan Moore, I just merely raise him because I want to point out that the vast majority of comics written before Moore arrived on the scene, and the vast majority of comics written today - weren't about anything. They were a place were people didn't explore the human condition, they explored the ability of people to blow up things with laser beams coming from their eyes. Or mechanical scorpion tales, or freeze rays, invisible planes, magic rings, people who could communicate with fish etc.
It was about the "Super" and not the "Hero" and often done poorly at that.
Nerds present an obstacle for comics legitimacy because they are the fans that like Watchmen because the comedian is 'a bad ass' and John the superman 'has cool powers' and the like.
The fact that Watchmen was about something greater than the surface storyline escapes them, or they know about it because they looked it up on wikipedia, and it became a nifty-cool-secret they thought of as evidence of their superior geek intellect, and not because Watchmen was actually crafted to speak to everyone on a fundamental human level.
Basically, think of TV, if 'Two and a Half Men' is what the majority demands as good comedy, then 'Two and a Half Men' is what all the studios are out to create, not 'Seinfeld'. In the same way, if Nerds are demanding comics about cool explosions and massive battle scenes, that is what comic companies are going to greenlight, not actual literary works that explore the human condition.
Nerds keep comics in the same literary standing as Mills & Boons novels.

K2: Movies.

This is pretty much Nerds again, the Nerd dollar. Comic book movies have an appalling record of successful adaptations to the silver screen. Theres the first two superman movies of the 80s. Then theres Batman, Batman Returns. Then nothing until Spider Man, X-men 2 was a pass, Spider Man 2 was probably reigning champion until Iron Man came out. Iron Man wins because the source material is frankly terrible. Dare Devil probably loses because the product was terrible given it has Marvels second best source material (after Spiderman).
If the above list of Movies seems pretty long, keep in mind it to my best estimate represents about 5% of comic adaptation movies made. 2/7 Batman films being worth the effort of making them since the 80's is pretty good. 2/3 Spiderman movies is also noteworthy. But then there's 0/3 Fantastic Four, 0/3 Punisher, 0/3 Blade, 1/4 X-men, 0/1 Daredevil, 2/6? Superman, 0/3 Frank Miller adaptations, 0/8? vertigo imprint adaptations (eg. Virus, anything by Neil Gaiman etc.)
Now many might argue that Batman Begins & TDK are notably absent, or that Sin City was really good etc. Well, my criteria is about 'legitimacy' and whether a movie helps or hinders a comic. For me, something like Iron Man is great to make a movie out of if you do it well, which is what happened, because Iron Man beyond the suit is a conceptual nightmare with few likeable characters and a terrible rogues gallery. A movie provides the opportunity for someone to cut out as much shit as possible and condense it down to the workable elements and actually elevate the source material. Faithfully mimicking the source material (Sin City, 300) is just a waste of time, because surely you should just read the comic. Cherry Picking the best storylines (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) and actually making them worse, is even worse than the faithful adaptation.
What the success of such films (fueled by the Nerd dollar) say is that the aspiration of comics as an art form is to become a movie. You couldn't say the same about books and get away with it. Sure their may be writers that take the money and run (Dan Brown, JK Rowling) but money making is held in lower esteem than winning a Booker, Pulitzer, Nobel or Nova.
Nerds provide a 'guarunteed' audience to a studio, and comics are currently a business of selling out. And they sell out terribly with real quality control issues.
These are the two biggest obstacles facing comics.

3. The Steak not the Sizzle sells.

By this I mean, in the west particularly, most people follow Mark Millar's opinion 'if it wasn't for the artwork nobody would be reading comics' rather than Alan Moore's 'You can have the best artwork in the world and it counts for nothing if the writing isn't good' which curiously both are writers.
ALan Moore, again is like the Deniro of comic writers, he hasn't produced much worth celebrating in years, but the body of work he produced in his early career is 100 times more than most writers produce in their lifetime. I'm speaking quality not quantity also.
Mark Miller is the writer of 'Wanted' and now 'Kick Ass', the guy is a conundrum to me because he has that manner of questioning - deconstruction if you will, that leads to good ideas, then seems to fall down on the execution. Maybe his concept of hip jives with me, but he is a good illustration of what is wrong in the world of comic writing right now.
He and Grant Morrison are the most celebrated. Theres a bit of Emperor's New Clothes about them I feel. Where different is celebrated as good, regardless of how it makes us feel, and again the real problem being the vastness of the Nerd dollar reinforcing crappy writers for a Michael Bay-esque approach to plots.
It's an approach you get in most industries where I imagine editors say shit like 'Twitter seems to be all the rage now, have your character using twitter and other social netwroking tools' and this sort of shallow reflection of the 'cutting edge' comes at the expense of any real feeling or thought. But comics distinctly lack the cream to skim off the top.
In television you have 'Two and a Half Men' and 'Entourage' that reflect our own meaningless lives back at us, but you have 'The Wire', 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' etc that cater to a Niche market actually wanting more.
Alternative and independant comics too often are just auditions to be Marvel/DC comics or manga, OR the comic equivalent of Punk Rock, where the importance of self importance edges out any requirement of actual talent or effort.
Put simply, there just aren't any good writers. There are however plenty and varied good artists. Which is perplexing, because the effort of writing a good story shouldn't be too onerous, thus 1 distinct advantage western comics has over manga is that 1 good writer can be matched to many artists producing a much vaster body of quality work. Instead the reverse seems to be true, with John Romita Jr having to operate on 2 hours sleep a day working for numerous talentless writers.
Imagine how much more Takehiko Inoue could produce a week if he left the drawing up to some talented manga artist who just couldn't write for shit (which describes many manga artists). I mean sure we love Vagabond, Slam Dunk and Real for his illustration as well as his writing, my point is that he could write 8 series simultaneously instead of only 2 at a time if he had other people doing the pencils up.
The number of artists I dream of working with that are currently active would necessitate taking my shoes off, to float some names in the west you have Tim Sale, Ben Templesmith, N8 Van Dyke, Greg Cappullo, Michael Lark, John Romita Jr, Jim Lee, Riccardo Burchielli...
Yet I can barely think of two big name writers I actually admire at active at the moment.

4. Manga.

Controversially, I'm going to say, manga as an industry is crap. Bill Gates was quoted in Thomas Friedmans book 'The World is Flat' as saying 'who writes the best comics and makes the best video-games... Japan' but its a superficial view, capitalist perhaps, where dollars = quality.
If you ask about Manga and where to start discovering more about it here is what will happen - somebody will hand you either Naruto or One Piece. I would hand you Slam Dunk, Vagabond or Real. If you were interested you'd probably plough straight through Vagabond, Slam Dunk, One Piece, Naruto... here two things will happen. If your like me, you will get tired of Manga, and in particular find that Naruto turns to crap and is surely only continuing as a series because there are dollars to be made, not any love any more, and you will conclude that you'd rather take your chances with the hit and miss nature of western comics in the hope of discovering some gold than keep ploughing through consistently predictable and formulaic manga. OR you are a nerd, and being easily impressed by explosions have finally found a comic medium that can deliver what you want week after week.
A nerd will (by my definition remember) has no real capacity to comprehend that a character you thought to have power lever 1,000 actually has power level 10,000 is crappy writing, but will instead struggle with the concept of how one might illustrate a magic fireball ten times as large as the one from last issue. Probably due to a lack of training in perspective drawing.
But essentially, and I've worded it before, this is about 90% of manga. It follows a formula, and if your brain can jump to the higher level (in mathematical terms) of comprehending structure, rather than the lower level of the words and pictures on the page, you can see that you are just reading the same shit from a different arsehole.
What do I mean, manga is proscriptive, theres a formula to follow and it works. You change a few details and that is all, you take the storyline of Dragonball Z drop the character names and write in character names from Naruto and you have pretty much the same story, you do it again but scrub out the Naruto names and write in the Tenjho Tenji (or whatever) names and you are back again.
Manga has no deconstructionist. Probably the best attempt I've come across is 20th century boys, but it doesn't do for Manga what Miracle Man did to Superman or Watchmen did to Justice League of America. It just raises the questions and abandons them.
Yet Manga is incredibly popular, and more incredibly, probably the most legitimate medium of the visual arts in Japan. Yes Manga is read by all ages and both genders in Japan, is much larger than Japans domestic movie industry (and much more valuable) dominates TV adaptations and is more widely read than books.
Surely then, manga can only be good for getting comics recognised as legitimate? I don't think so. For one thing, manga has opened up not comics, but manga to young girls in the west. But since Tezuka invented Shojo (or comics targeted at a female audience) little legitimate work has been done since.
Much better way of appealing to women was the SPiderman Movie franchise, because (apart from Mary Jane being a bit of an unempowered ditz) the SPiderman movies were cleverly disguised chick flicks. Why I think this was better is because it meant it was appealling to women who arent actually nerds. Unlike Manga.
That is they don't lack the imagination, have poor social skills, and are just generally stupid. They are just an average audience.
The girls I see hitting the comics/manga sections of Boarders now are not what I would call 'a sign of progress' if anything, the newfound interest of girls into manga is a step backwards, as these girls don't need material to further isolate them from society, it provides escapism which makes things worse instead of confrontation that over time makes things easier.
Despite mangas level of integration into Japanese society, if you ask me, it produces around the same (if not less) amount of quality that the comparatively weaker western comic sphere does. Of the current 'Big Three' - One Piece, Naruto & Bleach. Only One Piece in my opinion offers really exceptional writing. Takehiko Inoue who writes Vagabond and Real is operating in a peripheral HBOesque space in manga.
Mangas real threat to the west is the influence of its proscriptive plot structures and artwork. Appreciated by nerds, not by artists.
Don't get me wrong, manga and comics are two different worlds, very distant cousins and they both have heaps to offer. But I'd rather keep both, and both at a distance than have the worlds collide. That would be a step backwards. Particularly if legitimacy is the question.

5. There is no Editor for Comics.

This is the last one, you hear about movies being noted to death. Well comics must have some shadowy chief editor figure that notes to death comics. This is particularly relevant to Marvel and DC. Because they have universes. Remember point 3 about writers writing about something. Well look at western comics 2 icons - Batman & Superman. They are the only two real Icon status characters and franchises. A very very distant third is probably Spiderman.
Batman works because the basic structure (if not the original intent and the various ages of censorship etc. it has been through) lends itself to being an examination of grudges, vendettas, revenge, arrested development and the worst in human beings. You basically have an insane man hunting down other insane people and yet the nutjob in the batsuit cant see (or accept) the irony of him protecting society from other nutjobs. Batmans the iconic apocryphal anti-hero of comics.
Superman, superman is a Rockwellian messiah, he is the world as it should be, not as it is. Black and White versions of Good & Evil. Superman has been sent to solve all our troubles. He is goodness personified, he can do no wrong.
On the thematic level they are powerful archetypes from which almost all other characters can be derived. They both offer potentially powerful commentary on the human condition, and do so when written right.
But then some shadowy editor figure says 'lets put them together!' and suddenly you have: A super-powered alien with heat vision, x-ray vision, invulnerability, super speed, flight, freezing breath and super strength paired up with Sherlock Holmes in a bat suit. It becomes in other words a conceptual nightmare.
But that's with only 2, and at least theres some kind of deconstructionist commentary in comparing the 2. SOmething that absorbed much of Jeph Loeb's energies. It's when you have conceptual nightmares on like the Avengers and the JLA that the shadowy editors start really fucking things up.
Better yet, there's no more clear cut example than the 'Hush' sage and 'Face The Face' saga. Basically Jeph Loeb wrote a 12 month series that was pretty clever called Hush, in which a convoluted conspiracy provided a neat opportunity for artist Jim Lee to showcase his drawing abilities on Batman's entire rogues gallery. In the end popular villain 'Two Face' had his face controversially repaired allowing for the possibility of an overrated but essentially dull character to explore the new avenue of attempting to rehabiliate himself physically and mentally.
Then some shadowy editor seized upon the opportunity to just immediately rehash 'Hush' exactly but with the reverse outcome, a convoluted conspiracy resulting in Harvey Dent redamaging his face and once again becoming Two-Face. I admit it pretty much had to happen. But these guys didn't even wait a week to make that decision.
They squeezed some green out of the Nerd market.
Editors in short capitulate on the big fat temptation of the Nerd dollar and thus hold comics back from legitimacy in the pursuit of profits.
They are a spanner in the works of any writer/artist team that try to elevate a comic into new territory. Each time of been on the brink of getting back into a comic book series because somebody was doing something ballsy and interesting, some editor calling the shots throws something huge and craptacular at it.
In Batman there was 'Hush Returns' which was looking really promising, good writing and shit was going on with the riddler, penguin and the Joker being used in new and clever ways, the Batman series was finding its feet. Then some editor decided that better than being clever was being sensational, there was Infinite Crisis (a super team up) the return of Jason Todd (undoing the last truly ballsy thing any editor had allowed) the return of Two-Face, 52, New Characters etc.
How bad can editors get, yes much worse than Batman's (Bruce Wayne incedently is now presumably dead, presumed soon to return from the dead, much like his return from paraplegia), check out Marvels efforts in X-Men with this excerpt from a pretty good blog post on the failings of X-men:

I know what you’re thinking Cable’s been a pretty marketable stable of the X-books since his inception. He’s got inordinately large guns and another mostly passable solo book at the moment. He’s a gruff hardass strategist type which people always like. He, um, has a codename that really has nothing to do with anything, but still sounds kind of cool.

Despite all of that there is one reason that he is atop this list: he represents everything that is bizarre, ludicrous and just plain silly in thirty plus years of X-Men continuity. To fully understand this, though, we must start at the beginning when the character was just a gleam behind a pair of ruby quartz shades. Pretty much Cable’s story begins when Mr. Sinister realized that the spawn of Cyclops and Jean Grey would be a ridiculously powerful mutant. Only problem was that Jean Grey was thought dead. Sinister does the logical thing and creates a clone, everyone’s favorite, Madelyne Pryor. Cyclops and the clone have a baby, which is Cable or Nathan Christopher Charles Summers.

But wait, there’s so much more. So, Maddy goes nuts, makes a pact with some demons and becomes incredibly powerful in the dark arts. Which leads to the Inferno cross over. The main crux of the plan is the sacrifice of the infant Cable. Good triumphs and infant Cable keeps going on. After that his telekinetic powers start manifesting in the form of a force field. Which is good because people really have it in for the baby. Like a time displaced adult-ish Franklin Richards. Which was the oft-overlooked Days of Future Present cross over.

Eventually though, baby Cable gets infected with the techno organic virus and must be taken into the distant future by the Mother Askani. The Mother Askani being Rachel Summers: the daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey from an alternate reality that got hurdled into the distant future. In the distant future, the newly rechristened Nathan Christopher Summers Dayspring Askani’son is raised by…Jean Grey and Scott Summers who had their minds transferred into the bodies of Slym and Redd by their time displaced daughter from an alternate reality. Cyclops and Jean raise him for twelve years, beat Apocalypse and then get transferred back into their own bodies’ moments after being shunted into the future. After that, Cable goes back in time to do some mercenary shit before leading the New Mutants.

And that is why Cable is the silliest X-Man in history. And don’t even get me started on his dealings with Nate Grey. So, yeah I don’t think I need to say anything else on the subject.

In closing there were many characters that I know you felt were unfairly left out. Changeling had a very silly hat. Moira MacTaggart is one of the world’s leading Housekeepers/ Geneticists (Go read, pre Uncanny, X-Men 96 she’s their fucking housekeeper.) X-Treme is frankly just too easy. Revanche…yeah. Strong Guy does have a silly name, but is pretty kick ass overall. But I had to pick my ten and I’m sticking to them. There you have it.

Conclusion: Okay, Nerds are not really the everest of comic legitimacy, they are the continental plate pushing into asia raising the whole mountain range. The problem is comics are for nerds, yet many of those nerds lack the very imagination necessary to create a 'by nerds for nerds' industry. Once again, it's my definition so whilst many comic book writers and artists would describe themselves as nerds and possibly even stick up for their fan base, I mean that the dollars driving and reinforcing all the shitty behaviours and structures in the comic industry are: lack of imagination (impressed by Michael Bay), Stupidity (unable to see higher level structures/addicted to World of Warcraft), and social ineptitude (drive away the types of fans that can elevate the artform with their support).
Many people could get into Manga that are just plain creeped out by the fanboys jacking off over Sailor Moon and drawing their own dirty pictures of Naruto with teenage girl characters. Many a perhaps not cool, but sensible and intelligent person might have been perusing watchmen when some Moron sidled up and 'highly recommended it' before starting to pronounce out loud all the sound effects in the comic whilst reading it over your shoulder, resulting in a future supporter of the genre thinking 'do I really want to be part of this scene'.
Many a jackass has recieved a pat on the back for their brilliant time-travel-alternate-dimension-double-cross-conspiracy-retcon-resurection-crossover storyline piece of shit because a bunch of nerds got excited at the constantly expanding cast of colourful (yet personality-less) characters and constant use of explosions and laser beams and thus made them a big clinky pile of money.
Nerds are bad fans, precicely because they are stupid, lack imagination and lack social skills.

I am of the view that when Rove watches Conan O'Brian and repackages one of his bits for an ignorant Australian audience, he is being disrespectful to his Audience (assuming they are ignorant hayseeds whom will laugh and clap at recycled and stale jokes). They very well may laugh and clap like ignorant hayseeds, but his keeping them down rather than treating them with respect and raising them up. He appeals to the worst in them, not the best in them. He does what is easy, not what is right.
And that's pretty much the whole comic book industry. Let's call a spade a spade. I'm a fan of comics and I admit, freely that if I had to describe fans of comics, I would describe them as nerds or losers. Which they may well be, and they may well clap and whistle and fork over cash for explosions, tits and ever escalating power levels, ever more time travel retconning and ever bigger crossover events. But capitulating to their demand is disrespecting their ability to appreciate good, solid, powerful and meaningful writing. Writing that is about something. Writing that is legitimate.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Before The Game

It's one of those days that makes you glad to live in Melbourne. Most of the other days are when you are living somewhere else.

At the supermarket, everyone was coming out of the woodwork. A saturday morning and everyone was loading up on pies, sausage rolls, tomato sauce and beer. I would not attend a wedding today. Some asian couple was though, and I thought, poor things, missing out on the Grand Final to see another overly optimistic couple pledge eternal love to eachother.

But the atmosphere isn't what I'll talk about. I thought I'd make my predictions for the game before it unfolds.

1. The weather: Fuck the weather, rain is rare enough in Melbourne, and rare enough in september particularly for anyone to know what effect it will have or who it will favor.

2. The bookies: They fucked up, suffering from recency bias. Geelong became favorites after slaughtering Collingwood. Collingwood are just plain not contenders. They played a half of a football match and dissappeared from the game. Everyone, media included got a hard on from the performance, forgetting that Geelong does indeed have something to prove and is indeed trying to redeem itself for its late loserness sparked off by their defeat at the hands of St Kilda.
Three weeks ago the Saints also handed Collingwood their arse on a plate. The only reason anybody in the media talks up Collingwoods chances is because it is plain and simple good for business. Malthouse has fluffers, Buckley has fluffers, even Joffa has fluffers in the media because Collingwood sell all kinds of crap.
If Collingwood came out harder against Geelong, then the same is true of the Bulldogs, even though Rocket Rod is probably the best coach in the league right now, when they were trounced by the cats they weren't in a Win-or-Go-Home mindset. Dogs are the better team out of 3rd and 4th on the ladder, and by a good margin.
The Dogs gave no quarter in the attempt to get to the big dance today. Collingwood sputtered and died.
Geelong are favorites because on paper their wins look more impressive, but they didn't play St Kilda to get there. St Kilda are like Sydney, in that their defence puts them into the position to win, not their offence. They suffocate the offense, in the backline, tackle in the midfield. Offense whilst good is the afterthought. Mark my fucking words, it will be anyones game throught at least 3 quarters.
I'm not saying Geelong will lose, I'm just saying there is no favorite today, the bookies odds are based on the betting.

3. The Brownlow, is bullshit, the more I think about it. At some point Referees changed their minds, only players from winning teams should get the votes (unless it was exceptional), more of a guideline than a hard and fast rule, in the 1990's their were only two brownlow medallists that playd a grand final the year they won it. thus far in the 2000s, 8 brownlow winners have played in the finals the year they won it. So winning is in for brownlow votes, that made sense. Otherwise a great player on a shitty side outshone the team of great players who shared the ball betwixt them.
But its known now as a midfielders medal.
What I put to you is this, being a midfielders medal, it makes no bones if you are kicking to richo (an entertaining but inconsistent and unreliable full forward) or Tony Lockett or Wayne Carey (twix of the best FF in history). The umpires view the crucial job being the delivery not the finishing. As such, the Brownlow also sees no difference in kicking the ball to Mooney instead of Riewoldt. The forwards aren't important, the midfielders are. Play it by the numbers, whoever sends the ball forward most will win, not the one who recieves it forward most.
Curiously though Browny a full forward was one of the best polling players, where Riewoldt got 9 for the season. I don't think this Grand final will be played in the Midfield somehow, it will be determined in the St's backline, Geelongs Forward 50.
What makes it strategically possible to load the game back their for the Saints is having Riewoldt up forward. One of the best offensive threats in the league, not to mention the preliminary finals.

4. The Crowd. For Saints fans, the day is just so much bigger. Plain and simple. AFL isn't quite on the same level as NBA as to how much a difference the crowd participation makes psychologically on the players, but it does effect it. The St Kilda players only have to lift their eyes slightly today to get inspiration. Just slightly.

I'm calling it for the Saints, maybe wishful thinking. But that's my prediction.
What would I know I'm just a doctor.

Monday, September 21, 2009

White Guys Can't Dress

Between The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream, these two seminal bands in the history of rock forged the foundations from which 'alternative' rock could spring from. Not that they weren't popular to warrant the moniker 'pop' but they assaulted the audience with sound and skill as core business, the Beatles certainly experimented but they sprang from lets face it, pretty namby pamby music before Helter Skelter saw the light of day.

Whilst everyone has heard of the fab four, much fewer know who Cream are. They outsold the bible, they had the first album ever to be certified platnum. So Why? Why aren't they on par with the Beatles?

from wikipedia

I think this picture answers it. Cream the first ever supergroup, whilst notoriously awesome at the triple simultaneous solo, where also notoriously unphotogenic. Unlike the fab four.

I think Cream are cool, because they were three unattractive guys, that looked like they had gotten their clothing from a bowls club lost and found and were fucking awesome at playing drums, bass and guitar.

The clothes, were quite radical then, rebellious, non-conformist. They even had a naive eastern influence. Synthetic fabrics had only recently been invented, along with teenagers. Cream split in 1969, when Kennedy was shot, Robert hadn't been, Martin Luther King neither.

The penny drops, Martin Luther King was still alive, which meant the civil rights movement was only just picking up, White people were still clearly the master-race in the 1960s. Appropriating black peoples music and fashion was blatent in the formers case (reinventing was preferable to listening to it) and unheard of in the later case. Just think, in the 60's Indians were setting the fashion trends.

50 years on, it simply isn't the case anymore. White people don't have the excuse of segregation. Skinny leg pants and tucked in shirts with no belts is no longer a massive improvement on what people were wearing 10 years ago.

10 years ago, people - *white* people were wearing big pants, baggy shirts, flannel, 18-hole doc martins, chucks, vans, they carried canvas or schoolbags around that they wrote all over in sharpies, facial hair was the goatee, not the ironic moustache, girls wore tracksuit pants that didn't tuck into their arse crack, eyebrow rings, etc.

It was like a subtle version of punk without all the conformity and pretentiousness. there were influences from the hip-hop community, and influences from punk and grunge.

It is now possible to have a moustache and not be masculine. Sure one could claim that moustaches have always been pretty gay, but I mean the average white man on the street with a pea-coat, skinny leg jeans, pointy school-boy shoes and an 'ironic' moustache (which I concede, it is) is far more effeminate than another rock icon Freddie Mercury. Fuck they are more effeminate than George Michael.

But I know, I know, this just sounds like your personal preference. And furthermore people who know me from high-school probably would point out I've always been a stick in the mud when it comes to fashion and whats in. They'd probably suggest that everyone dressed like me, I'd be climbing into skinny legged jeans and school shoes faster than Joe Jackson can plug his new business in a Eulogy.


But maybe, I'm more concerned about the survival of a group of men that are willingly submitting to emasculation. Masculinity itself is under threat, we will regress to the kind of unrealistic self-image crisis that plague women rather than bringing them up.

So here is my objective measure. I call it the Alley-discomfort Index. You are walking down an Alley, and you are alone and suddenly you are confronted by someone walking in the opposite direction. It's night, it's late, you're alone and suddenly there's another white guy in the alley heading towards you.

Now your discomfort can be rated on a level of 10 - -10 that is, 10 being where at maximum safe distance you pretend to look at your watch, remember you have forgotten something and sprint ungracefully in the opposite direction. 7 is optimal, you want to be uncomfortable enough to hold your breath and keep your eye on the guy for sudden moves as you pass each-other.

The 0 is bad, if you are dressing so as to illicit no tension in the scrotal area of someone approaching you. Worst though is -10, this is where the guy is such a poontang that you contemplate mugging him, because they look like you could snap them like a twig, even though you aren't really a violent person. If they are dressed to a -10 on the Alley-discomfort index, they really should not be walking down an alley without accompaniment by a girl in pointy looking stillettoes.
The only thing literally keeping them safe is your inexperience at mugging people, and more crucially the clean up afterwards.

Some examples, this is about a 7, it's right:

This is a -10 maybe a -9 (currently in vogue):

And this is a 10, probably going too far:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Picked Up, Dusted Off, Back on that fucking Horse.

Okay I'm not dating. Last wednesday I had a really impressive stack, much like my wreck of a life it was entirely self inflicted, and also like my life I am inexplicably proud of the achievement.

I was cruising down the boulevard, and (I kid you fucking not) contemplating whether I was indeed a masochist, given my enjoyment of experiences most people would describe as bad. When I was superfluously peddling, listening to public enemy and wondering, my superfluous peddling resulted in my right foot losing its grip on my shiny new peddle (peddles, I bought two new peddles, but my right foot was only gripping the right one). Before I knew it my toes touched the asphalt, and in half the remaining time left before I was to know it, my foot was dragged back by the relative stationary state of the asphalt it was touching and got pinned by the calf on the shiny new peddle, my toes dragging along the road.

I must have known by now, that something was wrong, but what exactly was wrong, I did not yet know. I'm not sure if I ever did. Suffice to say I did what all good cyclists would do in the sudden predicament of having an involuntary foot shaped anchor to the right of their center of mass and pulled on the breaks and tried to sit my bike.

It occurs to me now if I was one of those douchebag fixed gear riders, the stack would have been much, much worse given the lack of breaks and that a skidding halt is all that's available to you in the best of times.

Anyway, whilst trying to sit in the saddle as the bike came to an increasingly unbalanced halt, the peddles wanting to continue on their merry way, continued on their merry way. Before I knew it, I'd been pulled forward, and was suddenly riding the top-tube with my nuts.

This hitting the top-tube with your nuts is more or less every male cyclists nightmare, and I imagine hitting it with the pubic bone is no more or less pleasant. That said, I recovered from that collision much quicker than any of the other damage I inflicted on myself.

I recall being pulled two-and fro across the top tube before eventually tumbling. I slid on my right wrist, mashed my long suffering silver bracelet to ruins on the left, and somehow, I'm no CSI managed to ride on my left forearm, for one or two bounces and just kissed the road with my chin on the last bounce and came to a halt.

The whole thing must have taken 4 seconds, was very confusing and I estimate my foot got dragged for 30 meters pinned where it was.

The worst damage was to the upper side of my right foot, which was bruised/broken up. However my shoes where in relatively good shape, so I didn't notice this for some time. Then there was 4-5 layers of pedal shape skin shaved away from my calf by the pedal, that's the next worse. The rest was just feeling like I'd been sleeping on golfballs, being covered in random bruises and grazes.

I was up on my feet talking to an old couple and a guy on a road bike before I knew what was going on. I could tell my mind hadn't caught up with me yet so I placated the onlookers by saying I was fine, I'd walk down to a drinking fountain and gather myself.

I ended up getting impatient and got back on the bike to ride the bike path to the drinking fountain. There whilst drinking water I had several cracking/popping sounds coming from the toes of my right foot and thought 'that can't be good'. I finished riding into town.

It was lunch time so I sought out food before medical attention, the lady that served me kept asking if there was anything else she could help me with. I was all like 'No thankyou, have a nice day' all pleasant and shit. I was in a really good mood. I ate lunch and called harvard and asked if he had any bandages as my grazes were beginning to sting in the wind.

Harvard was all like 'shit' but no real help, he didn't own really anything of a first add description. He did suggest I just buy the supplies from a pharmacy then I could use his bathroom. That was helpful.

I did that, and performed my own first aid in a manner reminiscent of 'No Country For Old Men' except without the syringes, the sewing up my own flesh and a fuckload more screaming as I cleaned gravel out of my forearms and shredded skin out of my calf.

Antiseptic cream, some shoddy bandages and some southpark episodes later, I walked out of Harvard's to buy my brother a birthday present and then picked up my bike and caught a train home.

So yes, I got back on the horse immeadiately, but after that day I didn't ride my bike again until yesterday. Because I guess its understandable to be scared of my foot flying off that peddle any time. worse it could be in peak traffic where I end on the ground I get my melon popped by some Camry's tire.

Not me though, it was pretty simple, just concentrate until my confidence is up. If there's anything I learned from the whole experience it is take photo's of your injuries before they start healing, my right foot was impressively swollen and purple a few days ago, now it just looks blotchy purple. Opportunity missed.

I highly recommend cycling, because a massive stack on a bike will more often than not end up as an amusing anecdote, whereas car bingles have a tendancy to turn into traumatic events or at the very least incredibly expensive.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Simple Phrase of Significance

If you think, you will think of something.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Cute Is Dead"

I walked past these shirt today, on some CBD princess and it was like a mexican-skeleton hello kitty shirt on pink background, and despite its bold declaration was still a cute design on a cute pink shirt on a cute little asian.

By the way, I don't find cute attractive. But this shirt, among other things tweaked my annoyance at the proliferation of 'coolness'. I'm not sure if I've done the 'everyone-is-a-fucking-designer-now' gripe post yet, I must have because it was my biggest gripe within 3 months of coming to Australia, but it still ticks me off.

When I was in Thailand, there were some pretty cool shirts, that you saw over and over again at every second street vendor, such that they became incredibly uncool, very quickly, but one might think 'but you cant get them in Australia, so I'll buy them, take them home, and I'll be the only one that has them.' Only first hand experience told me this doesn't work. When me and the supremely uncool damo walked around IH sporting the same t-shirts.

Threadless, Typetees and whatever has basically turned the english speaking world into the streets of Bangkok.

Over the past ten years the rise of Apple in sales has meant now that pretty much everyone is a designer. The internet means street scenes are the same whether they are the streets of San Francisco or the streets of Daylesford, Victoria.

Everyone has an Iphone, black ray ban glasses, a 'designer' t-shirt, either jeans or shoes from Japan and well, I hate to employ the term 'try-hard' but I feel like the world is shrinking, and somehow, its shrunk me from the streets of Melbourne back into the streets of Ballarat.

Where on a weekday, everyone under 18 wore pretty much the same thing to school with slight colour variations. Then on the weekend, everyone wore pretty much the same thing only with slight colour variations.

These people, in a nutsack, wore Rip-Curl, Quicksilver, or the twilight years of my Balifornian residency, 'Roxy'. I hopefully don't need to describe surf wear to you, but its pretty much the least inspiring use of 3 colours on any article of clothing ever.

The haircuts similarly came in scarce varieties, there was for women 'short' or 'ponytail' and the ponytail came in 'bleached' or 'unbleached'. For guys the haircut came in 'Joey', 'Ross' or 'Chandler' although nobody could really tell the difference. Then likewise it came in 'bleached' or 'unbleached' with the default for some years being pretty much 'bleached' for both boys and girls.

Now you may laugh at our Hayseed ways, but back then, around 5-7% of every year level bought their clothes from Op-shops. The Op-shops weren't called 'Savers' or 'Episode' but 'St. Pauls' or 'St. Vincents' or the like, the clothes came from actual dead peoples actual wardrobes and an op-shop find was really actually an op-shop find. They didn't have tuxedo shirts on order from some factory.

One could actually, instead of ironing or drycleaning, throw your shirts once a week into a St. Pauls bin, then turn up in 3-4 days time and buy each shirt for 50c from the Op-shop. No $30 bullshit like there is at op-shops now. But I guess that's just supply and demand.

Then in Balifornia, you had some Goths, there was Garth, Garth 'the Goth' and he used to play cello or something for the Ballarat symphony. Except nowdays I see him wandering around the streets of Melbourne, confirming my suspicions that the world has shrunk me back into the seeming monoculture of Balifornia.

It's repressive, I don't like it, I hate it and I'm sick of it. My message is simply this:

Quit with the purchasable lifestyles.
Quit with the mother-fucking purchasable lifestyles.
Quit with the purchasable lifestyles.

If you aren't a messenger, don't buy a fixed gear. If you don't have something interesting or important to tell the world every 20 minutes, don't buy an Iphone or Blackberry. If you don't work at a draughtsmans table all day, don't dress like a designer.

If you aren't interesting, don't try and conceal it with interesting clothes.

In short, don't try,

just be.

You may find just being hard, if you do, something is wrong with your life. Here is where you normally try to purchase something to fill that gap. This has to stop.

This has to stop.

Instead, go about changing your behaviours to effect real change in the consequences of your being existant.

If everyone ends up the same, concealing the fact that they are... well we don't need you do we. We can keep what 1 in 1000, 1 in 10,000? I don't know. But I do know the people of Melbourne CBD probably have a much higher carbon footprint than say... the people of the state of Kerrala in India. So really with the fight against climate change being the most pressing moral concern of our or any era. There isn't much point to keeping a bunch of homogenous consumers alive?

Hey I just ask the questions. I don't have the answers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Between Scylla and Charybdis

The Australian Economy is quite hilarious. In a sad kind of way, I think having 'survived' a recession we are coming to appreciate our unpleasant dilemma.

Let me oversimplify, the major battlefield of our economy is the property market. You let the property market correct (like the US, England, Ireland etc.) you have a depression on your hands.

Having high property prices means that just about everyone has something they can borrow money against, for example, if you have $30,000 in debt but are sitting on a $180,000 property, worst comes to worst you sell the property to pay off the debt and you have $150,000 in your pocket. So really, you don't have a problem being $30k in debt, you have an opportunity to be $150k further in debt. You can use the property as collatoral to borrow money to spend in the economy stimulating demand.

Now if your property fell by 40%, or more, this would effectively half the demand in the market place, driving up unemployment, which would catch up with the property market pushing prices down further. This economic whirlpool we can call Charybdis.

Alternatively, you have to think of high prices like a balloon, not a helium balloon, just a regular arse balloon. House prices and valuations are based on what similar properties are being sold for, it's based on recent history, simply put again you need continuous sales - at profits - to hold house prices up. That or you choke down the supply so that barely any houses go through on sales, you can't liquidate your asset and realise your gain, but on paper it can look that way.

The point being that just like a balloon filled with plain old air, if you take away the hand holding a balloon up, it's just going to fall down.

How do you hold up a property shaped balloon? You need to stimulate demand, demand costs money, you need to basically pay the difference between what consumers are willing to pay and what the going price is. For a widget factory this involves cutting your margin, or the wholesaler cutting their margin. For a government this means going into debt and putting out First Home Buyers Grants and shit.

It costs money, furthermore, having high house prices costs us money, either in mortgages, rents, taxes etc. These basic living costs put pressure on wages, which puts pressure on goods and services and leads to inflation. A mountain of inflation.

In Australia if you think back two or three years, what was all the economic talk about - the government denying inflation particular as regards Petrol and House prices. Flash forward a year or two, petrol prices are off the radar, housing affordability has become a joke, people want affordable housing but they don't want their houses to get any cheeper. Inflation be damned interest rates must go down, and down they did, now inflation is up and interest rates it seems must go up.

We can call the interest/inflation dilemma the rock known as Scylla. Thus thusly, we can go down into the whirlpool of deflating house prices (Steve Keen's Debt Deflation). Or break up on the rock of inflation.

It seems we can't have 'neither' but damn if they are not trying. I imagine over the course of the next year we will have one (the Charybdis) or both.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Would Da Vinci Use Maya?

To me the question is undoubtedly, just as the question of whether JS Bach or Mozart would have picked a Fender Stratocaster over a Harpsichord or Piano Forte if they had been born when I did.

Which is not to say that I'm a Leonardo Da Vinci because I can use photoshop. It is to say that he would probably be winning competitions on a site like CGTalk or creating bill boards for Nike, ads for HP etc.

The above clip, mayhaps makes the point I'm trying to make, it was supposed to be some social experiment to see whether people would notice that the shitty busker is actually one of the US's 'leading musicians' and to see if people would notice during rush hour and enjoy the free show.

This clip was posted on a friends facebook feed some time ago, and I thought of it while looking at the Dali exhibit today, and more to the point I thought of our mutual friends verdict:

Well, also it's not popular music. Who the hell can appreciate violin solos? If it was TI singing autotune in the subway you can be sure a massive crowd would be gathered round.

The real story here - unknown man plays unpopular music really well; nobody cares.

And it's true, but it's also the difference I feel between classical musicians today and popular musicians then (JS Bach, Mozart). Did you know for example that you weren't considered 'worth your salt' if you couldn't improv back in the romantic a classical music periods.

JS Bach is probably the most overlooked soloist of all time, known for driving whole congregations out of cathedrals with his 40 minute harpsichord solos. Someone with such musical genius born in the 70's and a teen in the 80s would have taken a look at the rigourous and dogmatic automatons that make up the classical world of music and the 80's overplaying of ZZ top, Kirk Hammett, Mr Big and Slash and said 'I'm getting me a guitar'.

If JS Bach was alive and at the forefront of popular music today I imagine he would be Tom Morello.

Yes, the appeal of classical music is destroyed by the very people taught to preserve it, by creating to my sensibilities an unpleasant shrine to the past.

Where Dali though, learnt and conversed with the Renaissance masters, I wonder why the visual arts embrace change and have a healthy relationship with the past, where the musical arts (particularly orchestral music) rejected modernism and became unhealthily obsessed with the past?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Implied Insult

I was struck recently by the profoundly simple revelation with wide reaching implications including the implied insult to you that is the title of this post.

The simple revelation is 'If I knew how to win, I would be doing that' as an axiom of my universe. Alternatively it possibly suffices to say 'If I knew how to be a winner, I would be.' I'm not sure if they are equivalent statements.

What implies an insult is precedent, that is, surely the easiest way to be a winner is to find a winner and imitate them, right?

if you follow the link to the search results, you would discover what I now comprehend. It seems extremely difficult to be a winner.

People all have their own vague scheme of 'how to be/what a winner is' common answers are to be a doctor or lawyer. Well I came across these answers way back in the day and my response hasn't changed.

The nearest 'winner' lawyer that comes to mind is probably Atticus Finch, who never really existed, and then maybe Abe Lincoln whom wasn't a winner for being a lawyer and only became a winner after losing half the Union.

Doctors well there's Fred Hollows maybe. But I cant think of any truly great doctors I would call winners. Lets just say that being a winner isn't as simple as becoming a doctor or lawyer. Infact the risk vs return ratio, the upfront investment required simply to get amongst the pool of doctors or lawyers wasn't worth it to me then and isn't to me now, particularly since more work is required to actually be a winner.

Then there's the wholesome everyday sense, like 'owning your own home' or 'getting married' well in the first instance if being a winner was as simple as getting a mortgage then simply being alive is the most uninspiring thing in possibly all of existence.

As for marriage, I have a friend who got dumped by his girlfriend after 14 years, thanks to de facto laws his property got split and everything so it was just like a divorce. Another friend got divorced after what must be 2-3 years of marriage. All up that was probably an 8 year relationship.

Is one a winner because he got married, even though the relationship was shorter lived than one in which a couple didn't?

Furthermore, take a couple, say for arguments sake an old couple that simply stayed together because they didn't want to get divorced. And that's more or less the only reason they stay together. They think 'till death do us part' have some actual currency in the real world. Surely they are the biggest losers imaginable.

So clearly if some couples can be winners that are married, whilst other couples can be losers that are married, others yet can be winners while never getting married, and yet more others can be winners for getting divorced, then there isn't a hard fast rule related to marriage that makes one a winner.

As a friend of mine said 'I hate women who act like getting married is some kind of achievement' and I fully concur (men as well I presume).

Then being famous, can one be famous and a winner? can one be famous and a loser? Lets just throw some names out: Rene Rivkin, John McCain, Richard Wilkins, Fifi Box, Michael Jackson, Mike Tyson, Britney Spears, Angelina Jolie...

Sure there's clear cut examples of people that have managed to live their own personal dream, and I have a feeling being a winner is about being self-referential, secure in ones insecurity. People I admire like Les Claypool, Mike Patton, Ricky Gervais...

But then that's not hard-fast knowledge, for one thing what many of these people achieved has now been achieved. Imitation does not suffice. Furthermore the kind of things most winners I suspect are winners do, are in industries and environments that are plagued by silent witnesses - people who did the exact same thing that we've never heard of because they never succeeded. Are those silent witnesses winners or losers?

I don't know. It's not easy. It's really difficult.

I plan though in the meantime to simply become an expert in failure, as hopefully I may someday be able to recognise 'not-failure' and perhaps even equate it with winning.

In the meantime accepting that you in all probability are some kind of loser can be quite liberating, most people are, there's nothing wrong with it, and hey the pressures off. You don't have to spend every waking moment of every day trying to disguise the fact that you don't feel you are actually a winner.

Just once be like 'I just bought a house, big mortgage, not sure if it was actually a good idea.' or 'Man Law is boring I wish I was working in fast food, they must have some interesting stories.'

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Blue Day

Well, I think its safe to say that there won't be a 'Phil Jackson' of AFL until they give me a crack at senior AFL coaching. Most likely contender is Leigh Mathews, but alas, the draft system works too well, and it's hard to build a 10 championship dynasty as coach.

Impossible you say? Well keep in mind that Phil Jackson coaches in a league that plays 80 games in the regular season with two whole sub-competition (east & western conferences) and 30 teams or 32 or something. They go on 9 game road trips unlike the occasional 1 week road trip to Perth here.

So I would say, yes it's doable.

What I like about the AFL code in particular though, is that a coach can't say 'time out' and adjust, to have a chance at being a fair comparison to b-ball you would need an interchange bench of 20 or so, so you could replace everyplayer on the field and then some.

So yeah, 'stoppage' in AFL is nothing like stoppages in b-ball. They don't take ad breaks in AFL stoppage time, and that is a great thing.

But what it means for a coach like Brett Ratton is that when the game starts slipping from your fingers, it keeps slipping.
The Zen Master often just goes 'time-out' the moment anyone breaks a 12-0 run the Lakers have on them. (this would be the bare-bones equivalent of having 6 unanswered goals in AFL) instead the blues left Judd resting on the sidelines as the midfield fell apart and Bradbury completely outclassed his defender as he turned the margin from 5 goals to 5 points.

Then the game was well and truly lost.

Funnily, when it was like 100 to 70 I said to my brother 'my blues can lose it from here' and they delivered. What was frustrating and dissapointing though, is the failure to make the transition from the 'regular season learning side' to one that realises that you lose last night you throw away every single joule of energy exerted in the season leading up to it.

It's funny to think a Lions-Blues Rivalry might emerge from this over the next few years because they seem to be at roughly the same stage of development, and they deserved to go through to face the dogs. Dogs vs. Blues would have been a 'Win-win' situation for me though, as the dogs were always my secondary team. I will be backing them, then St. Kilda, then failing that anyone but Collingwood. I would take Adelaide over collingwood.

Anyway, that was dissapointing, because the mistake of match ups, and just losing that fundamental 'ABC - Always Be Closing' mentality that Phil Jackson so successfully instilled in the Lakers during the Orlando-Lakers finals series, the blues instead had Fev revving the team down at 3-quarter time with the rousing 'Just a half hour more boys' speech.

If I was coach I would have dragged Fev there and then.

I would have been 'I don't want you guys thinking anything but "How can I inflict more pain" why aren't the fans crying, why aren't the players crying? You fuckers, there is no game beyond tonight, there is nothing beyond the next possesssion, so don't fuck it up!'

Or something.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Back to Writing

With SS2 now trickling along with access to computers setting my pace, and more specifically Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign, to use my now precious free time (which is relatively abundant compared to say... yours) I am returning to writing for my second comic outing. Curiously I've actually finished a draft of a project I plan to do third or fourth in comics, but it just took me and wrote itself more or less. I need to do a hefty revision with one aspect of the story but that's detail, not thought.

Anyway, this next comic steps up the ambition by several magnitudes like an electron jumping from 1st shell to 4th shell. It will be set in a city, meaning I will probably have to spend several months on perspective drawings. It also involves central to the storyline - light, as in the central character's special ability is actually using light based powers, which means I'll have to draw/ink for light effects in some plausible way. (plausable in a visual sense, not in a scientific sense).

Then the subject matter is infinitely more complicated than FOWP being that I want to create a romantic feminist narrative. And by that I don't mean romanticized feminism. I mean I want to look at the womens movement in conjuction with romantic relationships. I don't know if I can write romance, so I'm just writing what I like, because I know what I like, and at the very least I will have a romance I can read.

The key thing is though, the structure. You have an idea, that's actually the easy part I wanted to do something in the spirit of Shojo along the same lines as Manga pioneer Tezuka the Ted Roosevelt if I may of Manga. Except of course by 'line' I don't mean 'linework' I just mean that the target market this time is I guess is the feminist values I would want to impart to any girl, women or fembot that I cared about.
Princess Knight / リボンの騎士 credited as the first manga targeted at a female audience

Plus, I white guy dressed in art deco styling killing African children has I admit, limited appeal to a female audience. SS2... well lets just say I don't want to meet the girl that's a fan of that.

Anyway, what was I saying, yeah the idea was simple, I was like 'I want to do something in the spirit of Shojo manga, but I want to subvert it with a feminist bent' and I think I have in my central character a good embodiment of the modern girls predicament in the women's movement. That is confused and skeptical about the whole fucking thing.

I've even done my research, having read Female Chauvinist Pigs and The Female Eunuch which admittedly takes a while to get going but I ended up dog-earring 2/3 pages for notes and references and quotable quotes and then alas, the roof leaked directly onto my collection of books where my parents had stashed them in their endless attempts to conceal the fact of my existence.

But anyway, the theory, the idea, the concept, the characters, easy. Now structure, that's a whole 'nother cheesecake. For example, FOWP was another of those 'it writes itself' plots, I just wrote down on a bunch of cards the events eg. 'oil drilling' and 'hall massacre' and 'disease outbreak' and then I just slid the cards around into a linear plot that made sense. The thing was it all took place in 24 hours (story timeline). Furthermore if I could reduce the role of the monster to 'Sherlock' or 'The Doctor' in literary device terms, it provided all the action. The role of Professor Salif was the 'Watson' or 'Companion' role even though they were in opposition. The professor shouted out and essentially explained what was going on for the benefit of the reader, whereas the monster just rampages.

The plot is simple, the monster escalates in a linear fashion as everything else attempts to resist until finally critical mass is reached and the monster is stopped. There isn't even really a twist, at least not one that 'turned the whole thing on its head'.

But this next project when it comes to structure, I don't have such a simple B-grade movie plot to riff off. I have three characters operating on three intersecting timelines I have to work together to I feel cover all angles appropriately, and even though writers like Takehiko Inoue make it look easy in masterpieces like 'Real' I find it extremely difficult to combine... well I need to elaborate more on some details to tak about the pieces fitting together.

So firstly imagine the Tri-force:
link via sonic-penguins

In the Zelda series you had Zelda herself embodying 'Wisdom'(yet she was always the one getting captured by Gannon) Gannon the villain of the piece embodying 'Power' and finally the hero Link embodying 'Courage' (even though he was often the one who actually turned up prepared).

So this central threesome is only slightly different, I have the main character who is in this bizarre love-triangle, where she has to reconcile with tri-force numero two 'healthy relationship' which essentially is the romantic story, (and before anyone asks, no I won't be incorporating the rather extreme militant-lesbian-feminist dogma into the 'healthy relationship' part). Then there's her conflict with the villain of the piece 'unhealthy fixation'.

And here's the problem I end up with 3 timelines, the 1 timeline has to thread its way subtley betwixt the two other threads. In other words, I have to reconcile a storyline of a romance with a story line of a conflict/vendetta. All the while making sure I get my take on feminism across.

Thusly thuserson, I now have written the synopses of each storyline tri-force, now I have to unite the tri-force, and just because I want to do it, doesn't mean necessarily it can be done.

But this is the beauty of writing. You come across intractable plotting problems that force you to be (da Da DAH!) creative, thus a story you set about writing can suddenly evolve into something you didn't expect it to be.

I think bad writers in my view choose plot over idea, which I endeavor to shy away from, if the story doesn't serve the message, that's what I have to ditch, it means potentially if the characters I've created ultimately serve as a distraction from what I'm trying to achieve I may have to abandon the story all together and come up with another medium/narrative.

The second most exciting thing about the creative process in writing is actually born of narrative fallacy, I experienced it in FOWP when while I was reading it, a bunch of narratives I hadn't actually planned on had simply written themselves into the script. Infact so many scenarios were workable into that particularly handy parable that I had to cut a bunch of content because I would still be drawing today if I had left them in. I probably would have just ended up drawing history.

But perhaps an example in narrative fallacy is best represented by 'No Country For Old Men' as a commentary on the war on terror. Think about it, man stumbles across an unexpected treasure in a dessert, getting himself implicated in a drug warfare.

Then we see Mos go through a cat and mouse game using every ounce of ingenuity to hold onto his prize against an enemy that didn't play by the rules. The enemy ended up being something every character had engaged without understanding, and seemed to fight based on incomprehensible 'principles' and didn't respond to money and all that shit until eventually the best course of action was simply to pull out, withdraw, retire.

Fits kind of neat doesn't it? Except I just made that all up, it can still be extracted from it, but as far as I know Cormac McCarthy has never suggested it was analogous to anything. It's just a story. It isn't like George Orwell's Animal Farm or 1984 both clearly diadactic.

Mine will be diadactic, but I expect unexpected narratives because that's simply what happens when you are tuned into feminist issues. They simply crop up all over the place, any double standard or insidious subtle repression or reinforcement suddenly jars in your brain. So I'm sure my characters will interact in ways that are straight forward, like 'whose driving tonight?' for example, and being able to extract some deeper meaning (if I want) out of it.

Anyway, back to sewing the Tri-Force together.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Manatee Aesthetics

According to South Park, the writers of somewhat popular TV series 'Family Guy' are in fact Manatees, whom write the series by pushing 'idea balls' into a chute, when three balls are combined they have a flashback scene ready to go.

The implicit insult being that, Family Guy can be written mechanically. This is not really fair, Family Guy can be written almost mechanically.
By freeing themselves of the conventions of story, you can just throw a bunch of pop culture references together with (or as) a paradigm shift that a viewer my find, mildly amusing.
It certainly is not the most intellectual series out there, and in recent years what little merit it had has descended into bitter stabs at other successful comics. Which I feel is a bit hypocritical coming from the Manatee that played Dr Von Schnizel in Hellboy 2.

Anyway, painful analogy explained. Nigo and Shephard Fairy. East and West. Two very successful designers that have risen out of the street scene.
There's plenty to admire betwixt them. By now everyone's seen the 'iconic' (and perhaps ironic) 'Obama - Hope' poster. To see the works of Nigo around you have to be tuned into it. It's most present in the form of 'Bape' and apart from kids in those monkey hoodies, you don't see white people wearing it much.

This isn't because it's 'uncool' to be asian, it's simply because it's easier to buy in South East Asia and Japan thus thuserly I'm guessing most BAPE merchandise that comes into this country, comes in on somebodies back rather than in a box.

You know somebody is a sellout when their name has a registered trademark following it wherever it is printed in a book that documents their design dynasty, and Nigo certainly is. I don't mind tis so muc because Japan being a collectivist society doesn't really have any concept or scruples against 'selling out'.

Nor for Shepard Fairy in the land of the free, where tall-poppies isn't so much a factor. Plus the guy has a foundation that supplies disadvantaged kids with art-supplies which is exactly what I'd do with his money.

But I put it to you that the two men are Manatees of design. Seth McFarlane sized Manatees.

You see Nigo, basically picked a gorilla head still from 'Planet of The Apes' plus a catchy slogan from the Ape's 10 commandments. Then had a designer friend run the Ape face through some early Mac Design software to come up with an easy stencil. Then printed it on a t-shirt. This went down sometime in 1993 in Harajuku.

Pop culture reference, dropped down a chute that we can call a 'Mac' and then transmitted to a market. A year later, he had the idea of combining the BAPE logo with camoflage, having attempted once to create my own disruptive visual pattern, I was impressed by the design skills here, but no, yesterday I read that they used the US Army's old 'Frog Skin' pattern, and simply incorporated the design into it using a Mac.

And that's pretty much the beginning and end of the BAPE story, which is surprising because it takes place on about the 3rd page of print, and the rest of the book is just various applications of the camo-print in its various colour variations as applied to commercial products including MAC cosmetics.

Then there's Shephard Fairy, his story is similar, he took Andre the Giant, a WWF figure, and referencing an existing photo, did a trace and came up with a number of stickers most notably the 'OBEY' sticker campaign.

Then pretty much after that he simply took pop-culture references, dropped them into a 3-colour stencil type formate using the Mac chute, and bingo: Iconic images left right and centre.

Maybe not in the west, but certainly in an East-West sphere Nigo and Shepard Fairy are the highest profile designers of our age. I'd be tempted to throw in Banksy but the guy is kind of an installation artist, in that his best works work with their surroundings, even if Stencils are computer generated aids.

But I feel they are manatees because as far as the contribution to the end artwork is concerned they really only 'select' and do a bit of grunt work. Similar to south-parks manatees that pick an idea ball and nudge it to the other end of the tank.

There's no doubt some technical skill they apply, but why doesn't the Studio FX artist that created the Ape mask, that became the costume that was photographed by someone that was then appropriated and stenciled by Nigo or one of his designer friends getting a bunch of royalties? Or the estate of Andre the Giant (I just assumed he was dead)?

The photographer that took the picture of Obama that SF used rolled over, but I think he should have taken a stand, if not about money, then about the artistic merit of being a manatee.

I'm not one of those people that attacks my work with a knife if its deemed derivitive in the slightest, but the ability of these men to make serious clams from almost little to no effort makes my stomach turn just a little.

I just question whether a manatee is an artist, I mean even Warhol's 'Art Factory' had some guiding philosophy behind it. I don't know with the Manatees. I would be more tempted to call them 'stylists' as people compensated for their taste and selection, if not their creative output.

Anyway, I highly recommend Southpark's 'Cartoon Wars'. Now those guys are artists!