28 June, 2011

How Inappropriate is it to Plug?

Well, it's my blog, so it can't be that tacky.

Follow me twitter @Kislingtwits

Follow my podcast @WGSGShow

Listen to it at White Guys, Square Glasses.

Or follow our show's blog White Guys, Square Blog (that isn't its real name).

What else?

I guess that's about it. Enjoy.

27 June, 2011

Thrilling Tales of Consumerism!


As I've talked about on the podcast, having a job has really spun me out into a region of space with which I have little familiarity. It must be a bit like having cataracts removed, it's all new colors and shapes and really has no bearing on my former semi-ascetic existence. It's weird to be able to buy things. Most of what I've spent my money on-- besides booze and hipster clothes-- is books and comics (or "comic books" as I call them).*

I'm a better nerd than I am a son. The Saturday before Mother's Day I bought a hundred and fifty dollars worth of comic books (but on sale for only a hundred bucks). I then bought fifty dollars worth of flowers and roses for my mom and for my sisters. This also makes me a better consumer than a Marxist. There's worse things to not be, I suppose.

I bought a large stack of books over the past couple of weeks (in addition to an untold amount of liquor, tchockies, and, finally, terminally, ultimately, a massive HD TV). My shelf space is in severe danger of having to expand to the floor. One of the books (and, ideally, I'll get around to both reviewing and reading all of the books and things I've bought, making them work for me to some extent), is Chris Schweizer's Crogan's March.

Crogan's March hits a certain spot for me and as I was telling the store clerk in the line on Free Comic Book Day (if that isn't a tell for how long it's taken me to start, write, and finish this entry, then I have no tell), anything with breech loaded weaponry, I'm game for. He responded with saying that he knew what I meant and he just got into the Sharpe's series of films, which, I guess, meant that he didn't know what I meant, but I wasn't a big enough asshole to bring this up especially considering that the line was maybe fifty people long and this guy probably had better things to worry about than proper firearm nomenclature.

He was right in his own way about this book, though. It's an old school adventure tale, a great imperial adventure that simply isn't made any more. It's the kind of a story I love. It's The Man Who Would be King** is one such story, the Sharpe's series definitely fit into that mold, and Crogan's March can soundly claim to be a relative of those two sets of stories.

I remember finding out about this book at least a year or two ago (maybe back before it was even published). I think I found it while looking up the French Foreign Legion or French army uniforms on Google Image Search and through one way or another, I wound up on Schweizer's website. I'm glad I found it, because, as a result I ended up reading a delightful little war book (but don't take my word for it!)


(Here's a beautifully rendered image of a North African city.)

Crogan's March is a compact story about Imperial France's unfortunate colonial experiment in Northern Africa. While it does wind through the kind of predictable steps that an adventure story about North Africa almost has to (indifference and confusion about the mission, the hard-as-nails-sergeant-with-a-heart-of-gold, the incompetent commander, racism, sand, etc etc etc), it transcends what could have been a by the numbers plot by demonstarting that Mr. Schweizer put quite a lot of work into the research. What's even better than demonstrating that this book had a lengthy incubation is that he manages to fit these details into the story and it doesn't feel like an information dump. These tidbits about North Africa, goums, or the hunting habits of Berber sheikhs feel like they're relevant to the plot and not just garnish on a boring story. In some cases they are the plot itself.

Maybe he just made it all up, I don't know. If he did make it all up off the top of his head, then I guess that would also be telling of his talent as a writer.

Seeing this sort of thing encourages me because it deals with a lot of the same things I'm working on in my comic (ever so slowly). If it works there, I imagine it can work here.

The art is quite well done, as well, and like the writing it doesn't seem labored or crammed into the book. It has this kind of loose cartoony style and it fits perfectly into the story despite seemingly like it might be at odds with the contents (colonial warfare) and the tone (DOOM). While it isn't realistic by any means, it is representational enough of the time and the characters to give weight to the book where a lesser artist wouldn't be able to do so. The uniforms seem to be perfectly of the period and the characters in them deliver this clever and telling shorthand to the writer like good cartoons should. The mountains and deserts of Africa look great and, again, it seems like this book is in Africa and not just an adventure book that says it's in Africa.

Again, this is kind of a thing encouraging to me, because my art is probably more like a Schweizer than an artist that might seem like a more obvious fit (I mean, not just in terms of style, but in terms of talent-- not to say that Schweizer isn't a talented man, I just-- aw, jeese, I'm going to stop digging here). All I mean is that if this man can get away with putting together a fun book about a serious subject, then there's a chance I can get away with it, as well. That's all I mean.

Phew.

Even if you aren't an aspiring historical war comic creator or in love with a certain bizarre and brief period of time, there's plenty to like with Crogan's March, because, its a well told story and more than the collection of eccentricities. As a final note, just about any one at any age level can read this book and at only fifteen bucks (with a hardback cover, no less), I can't think of a good reason not to-- well, maybe severe adherence to Marxism, but even that can bend for something as good as this, right?



*I probably don't have to, but I feel that I should apologize. I haven't finished a review in what feels like years. The reality is that it's probably less than a month that I sat down and acted like I had any right to review something, which is slightly more depressing. I need to get my shit together.

**I love The Man Who Would Be King, if you didn't know.

14 June, 2011

Happy Flag Day

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Alright, who's the wisenheimer?

13 June, 2011

A VISION OF BULLSHIT TO COME


A panel and a bit of some shit I'm going to erase.

And I am well aware of the fact that the guy in the top right looks like the mouse with the sweater in Rescue Rangers, so don't even bother.

Oh, I Get College

07 June, 2011

An Excercise in Music Choice


I don't care much in particular for the Assassin's Creed series, but I'll be damned if this video doesn't get me psyched to wreck Templar ass.

And all of this is more or less a result of the "300 Syndrome." That, of course, is the principle that a trailer, especially when backed with a killer song, can not only sell you the unsellable but supersede the work it is advertising as an enjoyable piece of art. You see this with Watchmen and Terminator: Salvation in particular. You simply cannot have in your heart no desire to see films sold this well to you. You want to see it. You want to fulfil the prophecy of this amazing song against these amazing visuals.

The problem is that cinema tends to come in at 90 minutes a pop, which is sixty minutes longer than even the most ambitious or indulgent music videos out there. A movie isn't a 90 minute long (or a three hour long) music video, much to the chagrin of morons like Zack Snider.

But it isn't quite because this game will probably be pretty good. At the very least they'll understand that slow motion doesn't a film make.

God I hate Zack Snyder.

The Boys of Summer


I fucking miss having a summer.

And being perpetually broke.

No, wait. . . something got screwed up here.

The Ecstatic Truth

It looks something like this.

So good.

05 June, 2011

The Good War

 
Posted by Picasa

Eager to become a war correspondent, Maugerite Higgins persuaded the management of the New York Herald Tribune to send her to Europe, after working for them for two years, in 1944. After being stationed in London and Paris, she was reassigned to Germany in March 1945. There she witnessed the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp in April 1945 and received a U.S. Army campaign ribbon for her assistance during the SS guards' surrender. She later covered the Nuremberg war trials and the Soviet Union's blockade of Berlin.


(Sorry, I don't know where I stole this image form. Apologies to the Void.)

You Have My Attention


Heads up, it'll be D-Day tomorrow. Naturally, I decided that posting an article written by a German tankie would be the most appropriate way to bring this to your attention.

(via Modern Mechanix.)

04 June, 2011

"Oh, yes, the interview where I got shot."


I met Herzog once and it wasn't really a meeting. It was a book signing. But I told him that I loved his work and that I always recommended to my friends if they wanted to get a taste of Herzog they should watch the interview with him and Dr. Mark Kermode and, without pause or irritation and with a little glimmer in his eye, "Oh, yes, the interview where I got shot."

He is one of my favorite artists. Bar none.

Cinecult: Chiarascuro Chambara

[Editor's Note: I've been futzing around with this post for far too long not to post it. I'd appologize for the delay, but you don't really care, do you? Nah. That's healthy.]


Yes! Yes! Fuck those samurai up!

I just got out of Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins. I'm going to try to refrain from giving a full blown review because I neither have the time, the inclination, nor the sobriety to coherently espouse my opinions on the film. I will leave that to better men and sunnier days. Or at least until I get bored or need a concluding paragraph.

13 Assassins is from the mind of Takashi Miike, who is probably most famous for making a movie where a guy does a sixty foot long line of coke and then explodes the world, as well as a musical with an alien, along with the movie with an assassin who comes all over the people he kills with modified ice skates which sits right next to a surreal road movie where a yakuza member changes genders and eventually emerges from the vagina of a woman hand first.

He's an intermittent blast is what I'm saying.

To say the least, there's a bit of a pedigree to this movie. Maybe a dubious one-- IE: one of those pedigrees that only fucking your cousin for 400 years can create, but a pedigree nonetheless. This particular movie has a pedigree beyond that, it's a remake of a 1963 movie (Don't worry, there's a punchline coming).


They don't make trailers like that any more, do they? Thank God.

The last Miike movie I watched was Sukiyaki Western Django, which is a remake of another genre film from the 1960's. 13 Assassins suffers from the same problem, but where 13 Assassins differs from Django is that the remixed Asian Western is a mind-boggling bad composite of swill and trash and it's safe to say that the title is the best thing about it (See: I Spit on Your Grave, Hot Tub Time Machine, and Snakes on a Plane*).

If you want to know what Sukiyaki Western Django looks like, imagine a world where Quentin Tarantino did a bunch of DMT and decided to make a samurai movie exclusively staring Americans who spoke Japanese phonetically. That's it in a nutshell. It's a mess, not even the tiniest bits of the madness work together, and what's worse is that unlike Miike's uglier and crazier films, it isn't even all that much fun. It's neither as good as the Westerns it copies or the samurai films it is mired in and more than a few of the Westerns it's aping are pretty poor in the first place.


Beware the film with a blurb from Eli Roth. And, yes, that is QT himself.

It's kind of funny. I started watching the first Django movie the other day (which Tarantino is taking the name of for his new film, because I guess that mine is still paying out). It's not a great movie by any means. Apparently, at the time, it was really revolutionary from a violence stand point. Nothing went as far as that-- at least not Westerns-- before Django came along. Looking at it now, it comes off as a goofy B-movie that's plenty of fun and worth seeing if you're a Spaghetti Western completest, but I only see doom in being too inspired by it. I mean, I know I'm not supposed to bother worrying about gun mechanics in an Italian B-movie, but it still drives me crazy that. . . ah, I'm babbling again. Sorry. I've got an upcoming entry on Spaghetti Westerns coming up, I just think that the timing of all of this is funny.

Alright, alright. It isn't that funny. Bizarre? Weird? Metaphysically malicious? Who knows. In short: Go see The Good, the Bad, and the Weird instead.

Anyways, I'm not talking about 13 Assassins at all, am I? Sorry. Sorry, again. Writing and editing this going from drunk to sober to waffling between the two and back to drunk again has done me no favors. I'm sure there's a lesson in this.

13 Assassins isn't a great movie. It is an interesting one and it's rather tame by the standards of Takashi Miike (despite there being more than a few torture victims and at least two rapes that I can remember, in addition to the expected sundry of slashings, stabbings, and executions). There's some very horrific scenes in the beginning that set the stage for the second half of the movie, which plays out like a Chambara interpretation of Straw Dogs and 300 (I'm sure I could draw up a mathematical formula for this. Gimme a minute.). It's also a team movie, a sword fight movie (obviously), and ultimately, a siege movie**.

Of course the elephant in the room for all of this is one film. At the end, when you boil everything down and no matter what angle you come from, one film, above all, stands out as the specter hovering over this whole picture-- Picture, hell-- this whole genre. That film is Seven Samurai.

That isn't necessarily a good thing. Seven Samurai, as you may know already, is a perfect film. It might be the most perfect film ever made (I'm of the opinion that, yes, there can be more than one perfect thing. I mean, we got Jesus and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, you explain that).

To his credit, I don't think Miike was attempting to out Kurosawa Kurosawa, but he did try to out Leone Leone and look at the mess that got us in. There's ambition and then there's insanity.



Toshiro Mifune has no real baring on this article other than his attachment to Kurosawa. He just happens to be one of my favorite actors of all time. So, there's that.

But there I got dipping too deep into the review pool. I'll stop.

Overall I liked it, though a movie like this, with such a specific plot and result can only run up against the elephant in the the movie house: Seven Samurai.

There is no chambara film that compares with Seven Samurai. In the same way there is no mafia movie that compares with The Godfather or no detective movie that compares with The French Connection or no western compares with Once Upon a Time in the West (because I already named that other one he made. It isn't isn't fair, but I'm a film nerd and worse yet, I'm a Kurosawa nerd. It is especially unfair since, like 13 Assassins lives in the shadow of its betters (like Yojimbo and Sword of Doom and Harakiri), so too does the rest of cinema live in the shadow of Seven Samurai.

It's the statue of David, it's the Nightwatchmen, it's the 5th Symphony, it's Swan Lake, it's everything***. It's the best you'll ever get. I might be wrong about that, but I'm not far wrong.

That film one of the most venerated films of all times by critics, by fans, by nerds, by whoever. For me, it has a special emotional resonance. I borrowed my copy of it from a guy I looked up to in a coffee shop (I was twelve or thirteen, in my defense) and from there, my whole like, I'd like to think, changed. I watched it on my PS2 of all things (my parents didn't own a DVD player until years later and the only way I watched DVDs for years was on my game console) and even though it skipped, I loved what I saw. I eventually rented it from Blockbuster (haha, remember those?) to see it in its complete and unmarred form and it still hit me in a way I've never been hit before. I've described the first time I saw The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly as a religious experience and Seven Samurai isn't far from that. It hit me in a certain way at a certain time, but unlike I think a lot of movies or songs I like because of what they represent (when I was young, when I lost my virginity, when I first heard metal music, etc.) Seven Samurai stands up. I guess I was lucky in the order.

With that in mind, obviously 13 Assassins can't compare. But, it isn't quite as quick or clean cut as that. It reminds me of Seven Samurai, it isn't aping it and that's why I genuinely liked it (bringing a flask of Jameson with me and talking to the nerd to my left about Miike's works helped, no doubt). It's chock full of thrills, kills, and spills****.

I guess that's all you need, sometimes. Not everything can be the greatest spectacle in cinema history. Sometimes there's a place for just doing well. In fact, that's all art really is. It's people doing pretty well in whatever field for long enough to make a name and buy a house and maybe feed they're babies. In that regard 13 Assassins ironically fills up that water line. It's a fun movie. If you want to see an unrestrained but less well composed Seven Samurai (or any film like it), then I've got the film for you.

Fourteen year old James Kislingbury would have loved to have watched 13 Assassins in the theater, I can tell you that.



*I didn't mention Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, because it's a fantastic movie and my favorite Sam Peckinpah movie by far.

**I swear to God I'm making a list of siege movies. Some dark day there will be an entry on that. Also, maybe train movies?

***I'm not sure how to cite paintings or symphonies or any of that. I'm sure the MLA inspector would be appalled.

****That is a reference to The Simpsons. I can't find the episode in question on the internet. That is not Google's fault, I'm too drunk.

03 June, 2011

This Week in Maniac Fuckers


William Burroughs-- Master of not giving a fuck.

01 June, 2011

I Would Like to Buy Your Album


See, Donald Glover, you can be funny AND be a great rapper. You don't have to choose. We can all have everything and we don't have to choose.