28 May, 2013

My Review of "Shield: Architects of Forever"


What is this shit?

26 May, 2013

Existential Laffs and Terror

Walking east on Sunset Blvd, I found myself having a low-grade panic attack for no clear reason. I think most of it had to do with leaving the house at night.

I mean part of it was that I wasn't sure whether or not I was in okay to park without paying the meter. LA, as it stands, works like a place built by feral cats and bad substitute teachers. As far as parking and moving around goes, it makes little sense and when it does it either comes off as either carelessly lax or pointlessly malicious and I couldn't tell if this was one or the other.

The other half, the bigger half, was that I was going to a comedy show hosted by Vice magazine.

Vice represents something that scares me as a writer. In high school and college Vice was a magazine that you could only get through the cool people that worked at your local coffee shop or your coke-addled artsy friends. The fact that you couldn't buy Vice made it even more of a sought out item, like they were some sort of mass produced bootleg only really cool people could hunt down.

While that excitement tended to fade, it remains a point of frustration and fear because it was a magazine seemingly made up of people who only wrote what they wanted. They performed the writer's ultimate magic trick, which is get somebody to pay you for the shit that you were going to do anyways. Oh, and people like your work. That's a good one to have, too.

Another part of the panic is that I've had friends and classmates and guys I'm pretty sure I hated at first sight write for Vice and here I am making a lackluster podcast and writing semi-coherent piece of graphic design in this one comic book. It's not exactly what I hoped this writing thing would pan out like.

It scares me because I forgot how to write opinion pieces just off of the top of my head and utterly terrifies me that I never quite learned how to write op eds that people actually want to read. At one point writing articles of that fashion were my main thing and somewhere along the line I failed to develop that skill. The kinds of articles that wind up at Vice seem like the things I was writing three or four years ago, but at a much higher level. So many of them seem to be straight-forward and stupid and yet I can't figure out how to do something simple and stupid again because fuck me in my stupid face.

And then the panic kind of subsided because I realized that once I got in I could start drinking.

Once inside I noticed that the crowd basically ran in three different breeds: Scruffy and waify dudes, tubby gents with beards, and cool chicks with bangs that were brought there by their boyfriend. There was also a Wes Anderson-looking, WASP motherfucker in the crowd, but as it turned out he was one of the comics (and he was pretty good right up until he decided that his penultimate joke was going to be about the Holocaust. Protip: Nope.) For the record, I am of the first group.

The first comic landed about as well as first comics usually do. What I liked, though, was that he never hesitated or paused or seemed to ever worry about not getting a big enough laugh. He just moved on in a fashion that was both breathless and effortless. I guess there's a lesson in here, which is that if you seem like you're enjoying yourself enough, maybe you'll convince the audience that they're missing out on something.

The second comic was Megan Koester and that is a pretty funny name. And she was pretty funny too, as it turns out. I'm following her now on Twitter, so don't just take my word for it! Note that in the future I will be dropping some of her jokes into casual conversation (but not necessarily claiming them as my own). So look forward to that.

Then, the Fantastic Mr. Funny came on and he did his thing, which was "Hi, here are the joke, I guess." I can admire anyone that actually gets on stage with the express purpose of making jokes (that are funny, no less) and I have to admire someone even more who decides to do it dressed like a guy who got kicked off of the row team for going too far and is now out for revenge.

(By the way he his handle consisted of three names, one of them being "William" because of course it did.)

My other take away was when Neil Hamburger took the stage. I wasn't looking forward to him performing. Considering his association with Tom Green and the only other thing I know about him is that he's supposed to be an insufferable asshole, the image I had made up in my head was of a Tony Clifton tailor-made for hipster, the kind of person someone would use the term "anti-comedy" around and feel good about it (i.e: a cunt).

I didn't figure that he'd be quite so funny.

There's this ridiculous, affected guy standing on stage, taking fake sips from his glass making Britney Spears jokes and tearing the whole place apart. This shouldn't be working. Yet it does and besides being funny, which is hard enough, he's putting on a weird act on top of it. That should be commended. . . Not copied, though, because I think if I saw someone else trying to pull this act I'd try to throw a brick through their fucking head.

After Neil Hambuger left on I decided that it was time to move my car, because I'm a nervous wreck and this is what I think about when I'm trying to laugh. Another comic came on, but they aren't worth mentioning other than to say that I literally missed everything they said including their name.
When I came back Kyle Kinane was already on stage and, from all outward tells, pretty drunk. And good for him! It wasn't long into his set that I had my second realization, which is that this man might be a genius.I think I might also be late to the party on this opinion.

It didn't feel like he was doing his normal act while drunk or that his act revolved around his drinking (like Neil Hamburger's act does, which isn't a slight since his whole act is a put on). Instead it seemed like, hey, here was a guy who just showed up. He was the complete opposite of Neil Hamburger, right down to the fact that Kinane wasn't taking stage sips off of his beer.

I guess the closest version of it is Kyle Kinane's act sounded like the guy you think you are when you're completely hammered. The man ended his set on a bit about his pillows and it tickled me. It tickled everyone. We should all be grateful for being so tickled and  we should all be paying attention to a person who can do that kind of a thing and make it seem like he's just goofing around.

I guess there's a third revelation that just hit me now, which is that Los Globos is way less of a shithole on the inside than it appears to be on the outside.

Besides the laughs and the reasonable bar tab and the empty joy that comes from not having your car towed, last Wednesday night was a learning experience.

Anyways, who wants to go with me next week? Maybe we can get another blonde person in the audience.

19 May, 2013

MY STARK TREK REVIEW

YOU HAVE SEEN THEM STAR

YOU HAVE SEEN THEM TREK

NOW YOU WILL SEE THEM STAR TREK. . .

INTO DARKNESS

Star Trek No Colon Into Darkness is what summer blockbusters are supposed to feel like.

 

It's a roller coaster ride in the best sense of the phrase (besides it being a terrible cliche) and, in its more unguarded moments it manages to be genuinely emotional in a way that you can't fake with hundreds of millions of dollars.

I won't lower the conversation by naming lesser big budget movies like The Hobbit: A Unexpected Journey, which warbles and shambles along its nearly three hours like a drunken prison fifi brought to life by the cruelest of frat-magic, instead, I'll say that beyond all of the action and effects which work phenomenally, Star Trek No Colon Into Darkness succeeds because it manages to get a group of characters that you instantly know and like, give them stakes and motivations and relationships and you set that in the midst of intergalactic terrorism and Klingons and phasers and Tribbles and moons and space and accents and 9/11 and double-crosses and back and side references and Sherlock and FUCK THIS MOVIE WAS AWESOME.

Eating a fish taco waiting for the movie I was sitting next to a guy and his girlfriend who were on vacation from Las Vegas. They seemed amicable so, of course, I had to ask where someone from Las Vegas possibly go to for vacation. While they did not proposition me (it was before the movie and they weren't married yet so maybe the scene wasn't right), they did make me realize something about the movies that are out right now.

Of the four major movies playing that late at night there was Iron Man 3, Oblivion, Star Trek Into Darkness, and The Great Gatsby.

One of these things is not like the other. Of the massive, popcorn smashing affairs that you typically have invading the summer-- comic books, toy properties, reboots, TV shows you forgot about, Tom Cruise vehicles, Will Smith vehicles, Xenu repulsion vehicles, more comic books-- one of them is an adaptaiton of what might be the great novel written in the English language.


Taken altogether, you have a blockbuster that the exclamation point was created to service playing against a slick version of a story about a man failing to resurrect the past and that is awesome. We're living in a pretty decent age, even if I don't want to believe it sometimes, and it's perfectly fitting that a Star Trek feature is leading the way.

18 May, 2013

DSGN MGMT



I don't want to review MIND MGMT, I waste enough time on that. I instead want to talk about the design of the first trade of Matt Kindt's current series. So if you want an actual review go to an actual website with actual writers (that make actual money). Beyond its questionable art, what MIND MGMT, is one of the best designed books on the market.

From the artwork, to the margins, to the covers, to even the introductory pages of the graphic novel, MIND MGMT is something to behold. It's something no one else is doing in comics. Well, maybe Hickman.

Hmmmm, yeah, probably Hickman.

What I mean is the contents and shape of the book besides the story. It's the actual form of the book. It also means things as basic as paper stock and font (by the way: This book has some excellent paper stock). Design, as I understand it, is that bit of a work of art between the practical, physical aspect and what you're taking in as a reader.

Does that make sense? No?

What I am most impressed by is how this book is clever enough to overcome the sloppiness of the linework. The shape of the book is as much a part of the book at Kindt's art or writing. It's embedded in there and it isn't done in the way that Hickman does it, which is far more bombastic and segmented. To mangle a joke from iFanboy, “Hickman loves his title pages, doesn't he?”

Hickman's little flourishes of design (ie: Being a thing that is neither quite art nor writing, yet is a part of the same whole) are bold statements. They are title cards. They are supertext. They're calling attention to what is going on and it's great when he does it. It's one of the little things that makes The Manhattan Projects such a wonder of a book and it's something that adds to his other books, even when they might be lacking.

I'm sure some graphic designer is shouting at me through his computer screen right now.Well, shout away. Go design a gig poster, jerk, I'm talking about comics.

You know that this book is something entirely different from the other comics. From the first moment you crack open the covers, you see a series of almost entirely blank pages with a single statement made out of what appears to a ripped-out newspaper headline.

 Where he could have shoved ads for other books, we instead have a torn newspaper headline reading “TURN BACK.” I won't go so far as to say that they're wasted, but they aren't far from it (Somewhere, I'm sure there's some Marvel or DC editor looking at this book doing the math on what those six pages would have cost them).

Besides being this distracting and spacious introduction it also serves a practical purpose that reflects on the story.The book is warning you not to read it. But, you paid for this fucker and you're going to turn it anyways.

YOUR LAST CHANCE” is the next page. You can't tell me what to do! You're just a book! And not even a Bible or a Howard Zinn book! You don't own me!"

And so you turn into the story, ignoring all warnings, like the character, like the world. There you are, getting brainwashed by the secret files of a crypto-agency and it's all your fault.

How cool is that?

It can't recall something like that outside of the Bioshock Infinite ending where you're forced to make a decision and I thought “What if I just turn this off? Don't I win? Don't I prove all of you wrong?” Maybe you do, but in both cases you miss out on some impressive storytelling.

By the way, that's not a real spoiler, so fuck you if you're acting like a wuss about this

It also understands that a trade paper back is something more than a compilation of single issues. In a world where writers and artists are attempting to emphasize the importance of the single issue, where guys like Ed Brubaker are creating original content specifically for their monthly books, it is exciting to see Matt Kindt take an opposing approach and treat the TPB as a form on its own. It isn't until all of these issues are thrown together into a single book that it stops being a serial, semi-disconnected story, but something bigger and distinct (that is also a serial story).

The wider conceit is, of course, that you are reading a manual published by organization MIND MGMT. It's a sub-conscious trick Kindt plays on his readers. They don't need to know what a mise en abyme or metatext or subliminal messaging is to know that they're reading something with some, not all, of its layers showing. It's a book confident and compitent enough to never have to use five-dollar academic words to get you to understand what those actual concepts are. It's a lesson I could use to learn.

MIND MGMT also exists as proof that a medium as low as the comic book doesn't have to act like it. Nothing has to be changed or sexed up, everything that make a comic book worthwhile is already there, it just needs to be brought out by someone who knows what they're doing. Matt Kindt isn't the only comic book creator working who knows how to do this, he's just the one that really makes me think about this. Read it for the interesting story about hidden psychic spies and hold onto it for the impressive lessons in graphic design. This also reminds me that I'm a self-hating snob. Thanks for that, Matt Kindt. 

Thanks for everything.


And speaking of sub-conscious advertising--


SIDE NOTE: There should be a rule: If it's in hardback, you get the back matter. I understand the reasons why this is so. I understand the practical reasons that retailers espouse and I understand the importance of disnguishing forms that Ed Brubaker makes. I get it. I still want my damn extras, though.

SIDE SIDE NOTE: I am of the opinion that knowing what a roman a clef or a bildungsroman is the kind of thing that improves your life considerably.

SIDE SIDE SIDE NOTE: But don't just take my word for it.

16 May, 2013

Double Dose of Solipsistic Bullshit

Good work, Cruz. Good birthdaying. You got me this shirt and that's pretty swell. And it would've been a great day if it hadn't been for the fact that I also recieved a package from the National World War II Museum containing a free book. I mean of all of the days to get a book to me, you had to choose the one where I got a book about how we fucked up the Krauts. Can't compete with that shit, buh. Just can't be done.

I also bought an aloe plant, but you don't care about that either, do you, Cruz? Didn't consider for a second that I was going to buy some nice indoor plants to make my living situation that much more livable. Did you? Did you, Cruz?

Now, is the museum in a seceded part of South Africa and does the book primarily concern itself with Hitler's

So, anyways, sure we're podcasting partners, admittedly. And, yeah, he gave me this sick manatee shirt, alright. At what cost, though? Will I ever know that true cost of the World War 2 now? I don't know. I'm wearing an awesome fuck ass shirt.

Good job, dick. Way to obfuscate history.

Also, posting something on Facebook and getting it for nothing in the mail makes me feel like a pornstar.

Speaking of which, Cruz and I released a new episode of White Guys, Square Glasses (which is barely even accurate or a show at this point). Listen to it. Tell a friend. Send complaints to WGSGshow@gmail.com.

Good night and God bless.

SERIOUSLY THOUGH: The book I received was The Guns at Last Light (which is the third part of the Liberator Trilogy which makes me think that someone is trying to backdoor their fantasy novel over the bones of

FUN FACT: Pornstar apparently still isn't a word! Neither is videogame! Some petition Obama about this shit. Seems like he doesn't have enough going on for my tastes.

12 May, 2013

I Just Realized that My First Dog Didn't Go to That Farm Upstate

There's a Philip K. Dick quote that I can't remember the source of where he is haraunging Robert Heinlein's lack of creativity. He cites a story he read in the newspaper where an eighty year old couple recently got married and said that this was the kind of tenderness and humanity that Heinlein, with his space captains and militarism could never achieve. I have to think he was right to a certain extent, but then again: Blade Runner. It's hardly fair.

(Of course he later was supported financially by Heinlein, who greatly respected the grand holy fool of classic science fiction, which is a turn of events that proves that some stories can go unwritten by a man as great as Philip K. Dick).

So, then I saw this on Yahoo's main page. These kind of stories aren't just limited to imagine scrimage battles between sci-fi authors. Romance still happens despite all the horror show that modernity seems to be churning out on a daily basis.

Then I saw the depressing fact: This guy is one of 11 US survivors of the Battle of Guadalcanal.
 
Eleven.

There were tens of thousands of these men at one point, now there's less than a dozen. And one of them has cancer.

I've got to have a lie down.

I remember telling an ex-girlfriend of mine why I wanted to take a World War II tour of Europe and as I was talking it out I realized that someday, within my lifetime, every one of these guys is going to die. Same with Holocaust survivors (who, even as children aren't that much younger then the men who fought in the war, especially when they start hitting the 100 years mark). The last survivor of World War I died within my lifetime and that war, like this war, is going to lose all of its witnesses. It's going to decay into the Past in a very real way

While we're never going to forget what these events stood for and it's stories like the ones above that remind us that there is still plenty of life left in these people. Their story isn't over. And yet, the past is an endangered species and we're going to watch all of it slide away if we give it long enough and Jesus Christ what the fuck is that about?

10 May, 2013

NOW NOW I WANT THIS NOW



MAKE IT HAPPEN LET'S DO IT COME ON ALREADY

05 May, 2013

Just Finished "Four Lions"

It was a very good movie, but the only thing I am going to add is this.

01 May, 2013

Pleading for Some Kind of Sanity

Sanctimony is a plague of the modern era.

Back in the day sanctimony was something that either made you a look-out at the end of a very sharp spike or an unpopular pope. Or, I don't know, got Prohibition made into an amendment. Nowadays it's the bread and butter of comments threads and people with too much time on their hands and too little of a poli-sci degree (or too much of one). The empowerment that comes with the internet has done a lot of great things, but it has also spawned a culture of people who feel entitled to tell everyone how something offends them or how it might offend someone else (despite not being involved at all with the group they're defending).

This sort of thing might come out of a positive place (“might” is the crucial word), for the most part, though, it comes off as boring and reactionary as the dumbest parts of the internet you can imagine and as close-minded as the people they're attempting to harangue.

I'm sure the past was full of people whining about how offensive things are. In fact, there must have been. If the internet has proven anything, it isn't that people are getting worse or that they're getting weirder, it's just that they're visible now. It is just that in the past, at least then they were somewhere else and speaking in, I don't know, Swedish or some other ungodly language, and we didn't have to hear about it (because of that pike I mentioned earlier).

I say this then, with a heavy heart: I want to stop seeing violent comic book covers.

You hear that? Stop it. Just stop it now.

Enough of children holding bloody knives (or palming severed heads). Enough eyes sewn shut. Enough guts. Enough of David Lapham getting work. Just put it all to bed, will ya? I'm trying to buy a comic book here and you're up there lopping off heads and laughing. Except that you can't laugh because your throat is impacted with maggots and sick and it's only 2.99 to buy into this Degas-like excercise in living poetry. It's rarely what I need more of in my life.

I mean, okay, we've got a lot of vampire books, some blood is going to happen, I'm not a madman here. There has to be exceptions. And zombies on covers are fine (even if that means that there's a zombie comic inside). Guns in general are fine, I guess, since it's really only the guns next to exploding heads that kind of gets to me.

But my problem really isn't with the kinds of grotesque covers that, let's say, a Raphael Albuquerque comes up with, because he has a sense of what makes good design and good art. The rest of the shit I see is just sub-1980's VHS shlock that only the dumbest, most black metal shirt wearingest middle schooler would ever fall for (and God knows the comic book industry would be better for it if more of those kids showed up every Wednesday). It's not just unpleasant art, for the most part, it's just bad art.

Maybe I'm just old or maybe I'm just enlightened enough to realize that this is a bunch of hackneyed, overcompensating prison tattoos playing at being art. Or maybe it's both. Or maybe it's just the second one twice.

The world is depressing enough as it is without me having to stare at horrifically cynical comic book covers. We live in a world full of bombings, corruption, the New York Yankees, and an Entourage movie to deal with, I don't need bad art knocking on my head every Wednesday to remind me that the world sucks. I can do that on my own time.

I think what offends me is that most of the covers that I'm complaining about aren't from very accomplished artists. They aren't a Mignola or a Fabry or a Johnson, so they gussy it up with something some dummy is going to pick up. “A guy vomits out the bullets he's been shot with! Brilliant! Everyone at my imaginary adventure society in the alley will sure get a kick out of this!” I guess I wouldn't be so exhausted or annoyed if any of these things actually looked like anyone gave a fuck about what they were drawing.

I mean, severed heads are something you should be committed to if you're going to stick your name on a picture.

“Well, don't look at them?” you say. “Why don't you just not buy them and shut up about it, old man!” Well, that's a good point, but I have a better point: Fuck you.

All I want to do is buy my Garth Ennis comic book where he strangles a guy with his own intestines in peace. I'm an American citizen. I pay taxes. I vote and I'm barely a criminal. I should have the privilege of not having my comic book store drenched in blood and guts.

You know what the really depressing part is? That I feel the need to say this. Don't put fucked up shit where other people are going to see it. Children buy comic books. Parents buy comic books. People who aren't into piss-soaked teeth bullets buy comic books. Sane, healthy adults sometimes  accidentally buy comics. If I'm some irksome minority that wants to take away everyone's fun, then the opposite amount of scorn should be aimed at the types that want to flood the shelves with horrible art. We shouldn't let shitbirds of any feather crap on our parade (the parade is society).

I'm not so worked up about all of this as I am tired, because I don't want to put an end to this sort of thing entirely, I'm just asking for a basic call to decency. I feel tired that I have to ask for this. I feel tired knowing that it won't matter (especially here, on this blog). We don't have to stop telling stories about murderous hobos collecting child hands or pretending to murder a man's children and surrogate father as a goof (and that's just Scott Snyder), I just want people to shovel less crap into the world.

If I have a basic philosophy at all is that you should try to not make things worse for other people. You don't have to stop being who you are or become some positive force in the world, I just want you to not make it hard for other people. Do your thing, don't fuck it up for everyone else if you can. It works for doctors alright. Do no harm. Words to live by. 

The alternative to me not complaining is someday sitting in this world that we're wallowing in, lettiing it soak into our pores, and throwing up our hands and saying “Well, it's just the way things are!” and fuck that whole genera of shit.

Ugh.

I guess it must work if there seems to be so many. Actually, you know what? That's the most depressing thought in this whole mess.



SIDE NOTE: I considered posting pictures of some of the things I'm irritated with, but then I thought "Fuck them." Even for a guy with maybe five readers that seems like too much exposure for the kinds of books I'm talking about. Also I am lazy. There's always a second installment, right?

SIDE SIDE NOTE: I now realize what this should have been about the whole time: Dark Place.



Damn. What am I even doing here?

EDIT: Goddamnit, why the hell are those videos not embedding? The world needs to know about Dark Place!