Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What sin, a word?

Two weeks on, we’ve all probably had a chance to take a few deep breaths, and assess our situation. It seems…hard to believe. We face a real possibility of living in a world in which the President of the United States is not a creep.
What I really found difficult to credit was the hostility expressed against Barack H. Obama from some quarters. As the number of people who expressed absolute conviction to vote for more of the same hell we’ve been through the last three decades dwindled week after week, the often hysterical use of the word “socialist” to describe Obama spoke volumes. “Socialist”, the s-word, is the new code-word for an old n-word.
When did socialist become a dirty word? The rightwing radiodivs spent three decades to pejorative the word “liberal”, an adjective synonymous with “generous”. As far as the US corporate media was concerned, “liberal” = “witch”. But “socialist” = “devil”?
All the world is a stage. We are never really who we pretend to be, and we believe so only at our peril. Even Shakespeare wasn’t really Shakespeare, so it’s said.
So let’s not get too giddy for our own good. We are in what appears to be a Humpty-Dumpty situation. We should still be careful what we wish for, bearing in mind the laws of irony and unforeseen consequences. Today’s military-industrial monsters are descended from a baby conceived on FDR’s watch, before even the attack on Pearl Harbor.
That said, there is more than ever, nothing to fear, but fear itself. Great Things are in store, greater than we know.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Look at that caveman go!

Palin Claimed Dinosaurs and People Coexisted”. I first saw this story in the Huffington Post, quoting the LA Times. Amidst the chorus of guffaws and Lurch- impressions emitted by my friends and associates, Parke Wabash offered: “Of course, people lived with dinosaurs! Read Alley Oop.”
I quickly located am online mp3 of Alley Oop by the Hollywood Argyles and gave it a spin. I can still remember listening to the song with my dad on the little jukebox in the booth at Aunt Martha‘s Pancake House in 1960. In those days, the truck stops and family-type restaurants of America often had individual little jukeboxes in the booths, into which you could deposit nickels or dimes to hear the latest hits while you waited for your meal, ate, drank coffee or just killed time hanging out. It is part of the “Old, Weird America”, beloved by the likes of Harry Smith and others, myself included. Such homey accoutrements did not seem “weird” back then, but rather, as normal as maple syrup, and they are gone forever, if you happen to believe in linear time.
In a funny kind of way, Alley Oop started the Sixties. The song was recorded and released early in 1960. It’s the first song to lyrically treat Einstein’s theory of General Relativity as a given:

“There’s a man in the funny papers we all know
He lives way back a long time ago”

“Lives”, not “lived”. Multiple temporal realities are here taken for granted. A further synchronicity is evidenced in the surname of Oop’s erstwhile 20th Century mentor in V.T.Hamlin ’s original comic strip, Doc Wonmug, a play on the name “Ein stein”- meaning literally, a single instantiation of the traditional implement the Krauts suck their suds from.
The song also has its own brand of quantum mechanics at play: two different groups released the song on the same day, May 30th, 1960, and the two versions charted at Number One- simultaneously!
That’s two objects occupying the same space in time. And, the original group, the Hollywood Argyles, never existed in the first place!
The guy who booked the session named the combo after the intersection where the studio stood: Hollywood Boulevard at Argyle. Go there and look if you don’t believe me. Last time I checked it was some kind of bank, but of course that’s not saying much nowadays.
The guys who played the original session each got paid the same amount; $25 flat, one time. The singer, Norm Davis, is a poet now living in Rochester NY (Wikipedia).
The other group that shared the song’s Number One status was called Dante and the Evergreens. If I ever heard it, I don’t recall.
There was a third group who also released a version of the song. The Dyna Sores’ version of Alley Oop made the top 60.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Time to Brush Up

A couple of days ago Mike Rider showed me this SPIDER. It’s tons of fun, with sliders to let you adjust the size speed, colour, and other features. It looks like 3d but it’s not, apparently, but rather, it seems to have been achieved with some 23 packages of AS 3.0 files.
AS 4.0 is supposed to debut next week. I don’t know who has time to learn all this stuff, and then have enough hours to work (draw) for a living. Time is getting crookeder all the time.
This one little discovery prompted me to look around at what some different Flash Animators are doing, specifically the Cold Hard Flash web site. I have lately been spending so much time with my nose buried in technical literature that I have neglected to check out what new work creative individuals have been doing. Lordy, but there is a lot of good work out there and a large proportion is being done by Spanish or Francophone artists.

If you’re not willing to make a fool of yourself, you may well be fooling a self of your make.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Time Longer than Rope

Parke Wabash sent me a terrific book of WAR COMICS, and it seems quite a propos to our moment in time. There are some colour pages from a long out-of-print DELL title called COMBAT in which the featured artist is Sam Glansman. As a kid I recognised his distinctive style and knew him by his initials SJG, which he sometimes enclosed within a small cartouche. Great Stuff.

Glansman’s Pearl Harbour story is a standout, with complex composition depicting soldiers, Zero’s dive bombing ships and fireworks bursting out of the page.

One image remains especially imprinted in my memory- a drawing of General Tojo smashing an alarm clock with his Samurai’s sword beside this caption


The Japanese militarists squandered their time building weapons, raising armies, navies, and air forces. In these they placed their faith, and their faith betrayed them.

Weapons don’t make you strong, and armies don’t make you safe. Navies don’t make you safe, nor do surveillance satellites. Even less so, unmanned drones and space-based weaponry.

“Time longer than rope”, says Yabby You, “and Time is gonna catch up upon you.”

Time is the master of man.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Time is a Crook

“Time. Time. What is time? Swiss manufacture it. French hoard it. Italians squander it. Americans say it is money. Hindus say it does not exist. Do you know what I say? I say time is a crook.” - Peter Lorre in Beat the Devil

“I’ll bet Aline Kominsky is going to have a shit fit”, quipped my friend after I told him a single 8” x 12” Bristol pen & ink page, drawn in 1969 by her husband (presumably before they met?) sold for $77,675.00 at auction Thursday in Dallas.

Page one of All Meat Comics (from Robert Crumb’s Big Ass Comics, originally published by the Print Mint in 1969) had been in the possession of Jack “Jaxson” Jackson. Jackson, a pioneer Texas Underground Cartoonist, passed away in 2006. Along with the rest of All Meat, bidders bought all the pages from Eggs Ackley among the Vulture Demonesses (page 1-=$21,510.00; page 7 =$31,070.00). Also on the block was the entire Dale Steinberger the Jewish Cowgirl story (page 1 =$31,070.00), as well as a striking page from Lenore Goldberg and her Girl Commandos (page 10 =$13,145.00) from MOTOR CITY Comics #2.

Best guess is that all these treasures were originally a gift from Crumb to Jaxon.

MORAL: Cultivating friendship is the best investment of all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Shucks! Now I have to run for president.

Summer's here and business is slow. I spend my precious time searching for old
contra-bass saxophone solos on YouTube. There are some good new ones, of course.

James Carter is a standout, always was. Coleman Hawkins lives, though there are no films
of him I can find. The recordings are taken from discs.

I've booked three different models for Open Session Life Drawing classes. Wishing
to drum up trade as much as possible, I produced a poster. Kevin H suggested I tone it down, so I did, but here is the director's cut.

Most people will likely only see a "censored" version. This is, by the way, the only place
on the world wide web where you can see a depiction of 3/4 female nudity (I think).
There are millions of web sites, and I still haven't seen them all...

I was intrigued when I heard an item on the NPR Science Friday programme last week, an interview with an Aussie entrepreneur who prevailed upon some fat friends to undergo liposuction, and donate their collected body fat to have him cook it down, in his own kitchen, into bio-diesel fuel, which he used to propel his boat. The implications of this act are staggering, to say the least, for the citizens of United States and the world. We have found a single solution to two of our most pressing problems : the obesity epidemic and the fuel crisis. If we had our act together half as well as the World War Two generation who collected scrap metal, string, paper and everything else, we could make patriotic fat-harvesting part of the daily routine of every school, office and police department.

We now face the possibility of becoming a true space-age race, as highly evolved as any extraterrestrial species depicted on Star Trek, or in the annals of Science Fiction- a species whose bodies produce a substance that propels their vehicles.

What about that other pressing issue, Global Warming? The solution to this most grave threat to our future, is simple, so simple I can’t believe nobody else thought of it:

  1. Everybody open all their windows and all their doors, at home and at work.
  2. Turn the AC up to FULL.
  3. Wait for the temperature to decrease. If it doesn’t go down within 90 days, we can try another idea.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Smart went Crazy. Me crazy too.

“Smart went crazy”, I recall, is the name of a short poem jointly written by Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg when they were students. I think. “Smart” refers not to Leroy Smart, but Christopher Smart, a champion English poet of the 18th century. As recorded by Boswell in his. Life of Johnson, Smart was confined to an asylum, apparently having drunk himself to a state of dementia, and hence Kerouac/Ginsberg wrote: Smart went Crazy. Years later Ginsberg wrote his most famous line: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness”. Smart went crazy- again.

Language (linguistic thought-forms) is/are inter-connected in ways we don’t always see- beneath the surfaces. We habitually see our universe as the surfaces of things: how the surfaces connect with other surfaces. One harbours suspicions (dare I boast certain knowledge?) that the world we know through our senses and reference with our word-thoughts is not the “Real” One. We see only results, after the fact.

What is occurring before that instant when thought-forms emerge into our viewscreen? Or after? Where do thoughts go to die? Where do the thought–forms live before they poke their heads up where we can see them? Where are thoughts born, how do they grow and mature, what sort of lives do they live before we meet them? How do these thought-forms manifest variously in languages which are often mutually unintelligible?

The Greeks were not inventing, when they spoke of the Muses. These scribes were describing the process accurately, that the artist does not so much as create what he does, he finds it- it is a gift, given to whomsoever the Muse Choose. Muse Choose the Blues. Baby, Baby, suck your toe, all the way to Mexico.

I stayed up all night, last night, after viewing on You Tube a 1967 clip of Quicksilver Messenger Service performing Dino’s Song at the Monterrey Pop Festival that year. Quicksilver was too good to last, a band well-named: brilliant to behold, incapable of maintaining the same shape or form for very long, but impossible to quash.

“Dino” is Dino Valenti (born Chester Powers, died 1994), a champion song-catcher, one favoured by the Muse. I remember him as a champion performer, even if a jerk[1] at times. Numbers of the greatest songwriters of his generation hold Dino in highest regard. David Crosby claimed Valenti could write a great song in as much time as it took him to travel to the toilet and back. I looked up the name and found an account[2] of his method:

…"Every song is different," he says, "like every day; a completely different thing, man."

He explains: "You sit down and something turns you on and you hear a timbre, a vibration because you're right this instant turned on about something. And it's in your mind that you hear it. It may be soft, it may be fine, it may be heavy-it's just a certain set of tonalities, or sometimes it's just a set of chords that start going around your head…Well, you sit down and start to play it on your guitar and as you play the music, sometimes you hear the music has words …(to)[3] it. And so then you find out what the song says.

"Other times you're down and may be pissed about something so you write the words without bothering with the music; then you listen to the words over and over again and you hear the music. When a song starts you don't think about anything but getting next to it without breaking it. It's like getting next to a wild horse."

Bob Dylan, I recall, went on record saying he did not “write” his songs, but received them as a radio. In his Naropa lectures on folk music, Gary Snyder details how songs are “caught” by a visioner while on a special type of vision-quest. Most folk songs are variations on an old form, a traditional melody etc. Rhythms change with the times. Only rarely does a wholly new musical entity make itself available to the quester.

Check out Leonard Bloomfield’s big book of Language, also recommended by Snyder.

[1]Does shaman-status carry a license to behave obnoxiously? There is plenty of evidence that it does.

[2]Dino Valente by Ben Fong-Torres, Rolling Stone/February 1, 1969

[3]…the music has words it it.” (sic)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cow Poked on the Nones of March

Last night was Friday 07, the first Friday of March 2008. Here in Phoenix, that means a lot of art exhibits to be hanged from the neck until dead at sunrise. I contributed some items to the Pravus Gallery show, Cow Poked. I had to work, so I did not get to attend the opening, but by all accounts it went well.
I hang corrected: Last post I bemoaned the fact that nobody makes DuoTone Illustration board any more. Well, Surprise, surprise! Kevin Hedgpeth sent me this-the Blue Line Pro company is making the stuff for $8.25 per 11" x 17" sheet. How it compares with the old-style product (sold 30" x 40") I don't know yet.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Big Con, Little Valentine

The Big Con came and went, just like they said it would. It was fun, and plenty work, too. The Art Institute had me manning each of their three booths in different buildings, shuttling us back and forth. Mica stayed with me the whole time, along with Don Markstein and several colleagues from AIPX.

I tried to recall the last time I had attended one of these events- it was probably Sandiego ’78, the last year they held it at the El Cortez.

I got to look around the bourse/dealers’ room a bit, picked up some old comics, (late ‘40’s-early 50’s), looked at original art, talked to artists, saw celebs.

While talking with Tone Rodriguez, we got on the subject of CraftTint DuoTone Illustration board, which we concluded after some inquiries, is no longer made or sold anywhere at any price. I let it slip I still have a small stash, and he suggested I try putting some on ebay, just for a giggle. Not a chance. I’m saving mine for a special project, and hopefully I’ll be able to get some more somewhere.

I did have, however, the good fortune to find the original(?) patent for the stuff, from the early 1930’s, on line. So if any junior chemists out there are feeling ambitious, here’s a project for you: lots of artists loved this material and used it for decades- it was a staple of the best EC comic book artists and editorial cartoonists all over the world. You can’t get it now. It’s a (relatively) simple formula to manufacture it, and as far as I know, nobody is doing it.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

What's funny?

We’ve all been conned. We are all victims of the big con, perpetrated in the Garden described in the allegory written in the Book of Genesis[1].

We’ve been deceived into believing that we are separate.

I don’t believe in any thing. Thing. What’s a “thing”? Maybe later I’ll reach for the diction-ary, that big book composed by Dr Johnson. There are good on-line dictionaries you can refer to, if you are reading this.

For now suffice to say, a thing is an object, not possessing consciousness or personality, or “sentient being-ness”, a set of sensory information rolled up into enough definition that I may consider it a “thing” discreet and separate from other “things”. Plenty of people can compose definitions better than that, but there you have it.

Someone said that after many years of sitting meditation practice, it became apparent that all he had previously considered as “self” and all that he had considered “other-than-self” are in truth one in the same.

Another writer put it thus: “There is no externality of relations.”

So how can I “have” any “thing”, or believe that I do? How can I possess any “thing”? How can anyone take any “thing” away from “me”, or do any “thing” to “me” when there is no “me”, nor any “thing”, only a trick of my own brain/nervous system?

I guess that pretty well puts fear in perspective- there is nothing to fear…but fear itself.

Fear was a great band, though, and funny.

This year is an election year. I’ve been exposed to an array of Professional Party Politicians on TV, Radio, Print and other media, and they all seem to want us to buy fear, their brand, which they say is better that the other brands. That’s not very funny.

[1] Take that, Phil Collins- you used to be a good drummer, now you’re…nothing.

(Bart Simpson, paraphrased)