Friday, August 26, 2005

Boob Tube Ruse

Last night, my friend David and I were going to a free filming of Comedy Central's Premium Blend with Damon Wayans courtesy of On Camera Audiences. After a quick dinner at the Film Center Cafe -- where we were waited on by the cute and amusing Barry -- we went to the theater to get in line.

An hour later, we were turned away. Had we gotten there perhaps 10-15 minutes earlier, we would have gotten in, I'm sure, and as it was, we got to add our names to a special premium invitation list for "next time." Despite all that, we still got a good dose of the funny. David and I played what he dubbed the Hacky Crappington Game, a game in which I'd offer up topics -- say, laundromats or traffic -- and he'd do a bit or a rant. I'd then cut him off with a new topic, and he had to seamlessly go into the next bit. Try it; it's fun. David also turned me onto the blog of one Laurie Kilmartin, whose writing sheds light on the life of a standup. Fun stuff. Even if we stood in line for an hour.

Last night, then, I had a dream. I dreamt that I was still in line for the show, but that, instead of getting turned away, I snuck in through the door. I made it to the entrance to the theater inside, but got startled and had to hide. So I jumped into a restroom. The restroom was equipped with a bathtub and shower, and I decided that the best way to act natural was to take a shower. No one would look twice! So into the shower I stepped. As I was finishing the shower and began to dress -- while still standing in the tub, I realized I hadn't rinsed my hair. Even though I'd put my shirt on. So I leaned forward in the tub as the water drained out to rinse my hair -- only to get my shirt soaking wet!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Comics and Commentary XIII

Here are the reviews I've recently submitted to Poopsheet:

Apres-Shampooing: This 36-page collection, published by Robot, comprises pieces that previously ran in Kitchen Sink magazine, online in Serializer, and in various anthologies. Goodin sheds some light on where he finds inspiration; shares a story about a three-legged woman; offers an extremely well-drawn fable about elephants, rabbits, and trickery; and provides an effective piece about ineffectively enforced crime -- and bad customer service. His artwork borders on that of some of the bulkier manga or historieta artists, and his writing occasionally resonates with that of Dave Cooper. Intriguing. (Robert Goodin / 115 W. California Blvd. #188 / Pasadena, CA / 91005 USA.)

It Happens in Here: Written by McClurg and drawn by Ballard, this 16-page, color-photocopied minicomic tells the tale of a man mourning a lost dog -- and his father -- in the questionable seclusion of a library bathroom. Subtle and sensitive, the work captures a personal, private moment experienced very much in public. A small slice of life, but still substantial and sensitive. Have these two produced longer pieces? (Stephen McClurg and Derek Ballard / Alabama Society for Activity Vs. Inactivity.)

Misfortune Cookie: While this 40-page item was drawn "years and years ago," Justin Gammon's first minicomic is a welcome publication. Had Bob Burden and Jordan Crane produced a print version of Toy Story, this may very well have resulted. Concerned by a flying squadron of fortune cookies, the silverware -- lead by Z Fork -- enlist toy soldiers to dispatch the "invaders" with what appears to be a toy gun. The result is frustratingly successful, and the extremely well-drawn, wordless comic comes across as well paced, wise, and not at all wanting. Practically perfect. Impressive. (Justin Gammon / Wide Awake Press / P.O. Box 14234 / Greenville, SC / 29610 USA.)

Nina the Librarian: In the supplement to Zine World #22, Jerianne describes this 24-page photocopied comic as a "cute story, with cute illustrations." I don't know if I'd call this self-published item cute, but it is darkly light hearted. Similarly, I'm not sure if the main character escapes into fantasy. Rather, Nina, a workaday drudge at a library (natch) seeks solace in a somewhat social situation only to be disappointed by a near-suitor. Then she encounters Stewart, an open-mic poet who has a crush on her, again in the company of a strange elderly lady. The old woman provides a welcome buffer, and while the result is all but certain, the outcome is seemingly open and hopeful. I hope this is part of a longer story, because the characters -- and plot -- could use some development. Furgason's inking is uneven at times, but her character designs are solid. I'd like to see more. (Sharon Furgason / P.O. Box 5735 / Astoria, NY / 11105 USA.)

Shuck the Sulfurstar #1: Part of what I liked about the Shuck installations published in Modern Tales online was the coloring and visual layering. In this black-and-white print edition, which debuted at SPACE this spring, much of Shuck's strong imagery is stunted. So readers are left to, well, read. The artwork doesn't entirely fail, but what carries this issue is the lettering, the delivery, and the diction -- somewhat appropriate because much of this issue encapsulates the performance of a play. With occasional nods to Seth, especially in the design of Shuck's masks, our erstwhile actor gives driving directions to lost strangers, in turn perhaps finding himself. This book is made for color, but is still worth looking at in black and white. One to watch. (Rick Smith.)

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Battle of Brooklyn

Today in 1776, British soldiers moved from Staten Island to Brooklyn, leading to the Battle of Long Island five days later.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Old School Rap

I also recently found a dot-matrix printout of this, a rap I wrote for a high school graduation talent show. Several friends and I were in a fake rap group called Rapcrap, and we entered the competition.

(Hum Lean on Me with bass and drums)

Here I am standing on the stage
Mic in my hand all up in a rage
Talking about 1991
The year we graduate, the year we'll be done
Going out into the real world
All the senior boys and all the senior girls
Whether going to college or getting a job
Don't let anybody your success rob
I'm talking to you and I'm talking straight
My high school years have been pretty great
The spirit is rising, anticipation is high
Yet I feel a twinge of doubt -- I ask you why
Through the years, we've all become friends
When June rolls round our high school years end
Maybe we'll try to keep in touch
But we won't see each other much
So for this year, make it the best
Create memories to outshine the rest
With all the hard work and all of the fun
Come a feeling of accomplishment -- we are done

(break into Chameleon bass line and jump around)

Now's the time to get out of your chair
Move your feet and let down your hair
This is supposed to be a pep rally
Maybe it's not up your alley
Come on everybody move your body
Don't be stuck up don't be snotty
Join the crowd ants in pants
Jump around do the trout dance
Liven up all you Blackhawks
Don't make like a bunch like a bunch of cornstalks
Don't let yourself get pushed by the tractor
Losing is not a possible factor
Singling out football players from the rest
When you go out there play your best
Play with strength, unity, skill and pride
Make all of us feel good inside

Wow. Such earnestness! The neat thing is, I can still do the trout dance.

From the Reading Pile XXXI

Here are the reviews I've recently submitted to Zine World:

Alternative Press Review Vol. 9 # 1 (Spring 2005): Returning after a two-year print hiatus, during which the periodical lived on online, this magazine published by folks behind Anarchy, a "journal of desire armed," goes further afield than Utne. This "guide beyond the mainstream" features news items, interviews, and columns focusing on counterterrorism in the newsroom, activist Tre Arrow, and the war in Iraq. Also including book excerpts -- notably Derrick Jensen and George Draffan's "Welcome to the Machine" and Josh MacPhee's "Stencil Pirates" -- the magazine ends with a few pages of reviews of anarchist and libertarian periodicals. Despite the magazine's recently renewed frequency, APR is a nice to read, not a need to read. Occasionally tiresome, as is Anarchy. AAL Press, P.O. Box 6245, Arlington, VA 22206 [$4.95 68M :02]

Carve #1 (Spring 2005): This semiannual literary zine edited by Andrea Belcham focuses on English-language writing done on the island of Montreal. Printed on high-quality paper and featuring illustrations by Sarah Robinson, the journal does well to make an often-unfriendly province more accessible. Sherwin Tija's "The Meanest Man in the World" is a piece of personal writing that addresses assumptions and revelation. Maeve Haldane's profile of the Salon b bibliocafe highlights a valuable community resource. Belcham herself introduces in depth a septet of Angela Leuck's insightful haiku. And Scott McRae's "Degrees of Mutilation" bemoans the decay and abuse of printed matter. Books are also reviewed. This first edition bodes well for the future of the English Quebecois literary scene. Carve, 96 Parkdale Ave., Pointe Claire, Quebec H9R 3Y7 Canada [$5 US/$7 Canada/$6 Other or trade 44S :05]

Early Stream of Consciousness and Allied Writing & Other Essays by Harvey Pekar: This is a gem. While Cleveland-based Harvey Pekar is best known for his comic book-based storytelling -- celebrated in the movie "American Splendor" -- he is lesser known as a music critic, primarily of jazz. This collection of three essays, previously published in Grinning Idiot, the Village Voice, and Work in Progress, may well establish Pekar as a literary critic. And a damn fine one, to boot. Analyzing early stream of consciousness and 20th century Russian avant garde writing -- and the work of Soviet Andrei Bely -- these essays show Pekar's wide range and deep insight. While the writing might be a little elusive for those not familiar with the writers cited -- this reviewer included -- it also proves a daunting and tempting introduction to obscure works worth reading. Lacking more expansive experience with the topics at hand, I can only be impressed with Pekar's knowledge, while adding to my already-long reading list. One for completists, perhaps. Iniquity Press/Vendetta Books, P.O. Box 54, Manasquan, NJ 08736 [$4 56S :10]

Kankazine #5 (March 2005): Huh. Shoup seems to make a good zine -- this edition is well designed and contains some quality photography. But I didn't understand the point of this "other zines issue." It feels like a throwaway. Following some jokey letters to the editor, Shoup explores his writing process and imagined celebrity status. An exchange with a fifth grader provides the basis for what might be his best offering. Hans Stern considers clouds and the planet Earth. And three other zine makers (Groowwwllll, Evict JoJo?, and Based on Limited Contact) contribute artist statements of sorts. More in-depth statements -- and more of them -- may prove interesting, but for the most part, this is a dissatisfying introduction to Shoup's work. That said, the photographic prayer card is a wonderful touch. C. Shoup, 448 1/2 North Prairie Ave., Bradley, IL 60915 [24S with insert :03]

Parfait #2: Quite an impressive little item, this Red Charming workbook featuring a letter press-printed cover is coptic bound by hand. Overall, it reminds me a little bit of Farm Pulp -- the grephic design -- and Saprophile -- Emily's delightfully in-depth exploration of her obsessions. This zine is a labor of love. Interspersing short fiction with DIY scholarship, Parfait touches on the solo records of Paul McCartney; animals (written in a blissfully stilted English translation style); mathematician Evariste Galois, who developed group theory; out-of-print books; actors Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo; sweater reindeer; the American Museum of Natural History; and moist monsters. Emily has a fine mind, and this zine shares some of its inner workings. Emily K. Larned, 440 Broadway #5L, Brooklyn, NY 11211 [$6 or selective trade 100XS :12]

Randee #2: How is this glossy satire magazine funded? Offering surprisingly high-quality, full-color production, this humor mag is impressive but not quite my cup of tea. Regardless, there are moments. Contributors are depicted as roast chickens wearing various costumes, and Calista Flockhart is portrayed as over the course of her career as a twig. The anal sex pick-up lines are worth a guilty giggle. The blind movie critic made me grin. The Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino movie script treatments for the George Washington story and F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" were highly inspired. And the pictorial narrating Barbie and Ken's End of Innocence was fun. Still, this isn't a satisfying read overall and seems better suited to a college humor magazine such as the Harvard Lampoon or Voodoo. Josh Schollmeyer, Rock Pile Productions, P.O. Box 578660, Chicago, IL 60657 [$7.95 52M :07]

Rathistar from the Druidic Order of the Dragon by Adam Janus: While I don't have time to read this self-published fantasy novella in full right now, it is worth describing, if not critiquing. In the realm of Ta-Teharun, already featured in several other small-press publications, Sarel Duthar, a frost elf, and Khaz Axzen, a dwarf, strive to rid the realm on a "blood demon and its hell-spawned minions." Apparently, things don't go so well, as the two need to wait for a "shape-shifting dragon elf" to help them. Expect APA-style sword and sorcery, but no less. The Underground Who Chapbook Press, P.O. Box 13486, St. Petersburg, FL 33733 [$10.95 US/$11.95 Canada/$12.95 Other 11S :01]

Residue Comics #8 (Summer 2004): Equal parts Joshua Quagmire, R. Crumb, and Terry Laban, this is the best minicomic I've read in awhile. Drawn between 2002 and 2004, the comic features Mighty Chump, a King Kong-like character, and focuses on post-911 anti-Bush commentary. Well drawn and relatively witty, this edition features two pages of comic strip parodies, a puzzle page, and gags about terrorism, jingoism, marijuana, the police state, Jesus, and television. The spoofs are somewhat facile, but the cartooning is so polished in a clearly post-underground way, and the pages are so dense, that there's a lot packed into these pages. Someone should publish a longer book. Roger Lootine, P.O. Box 580848, Minneapolis, MN 55458 [$1 16S :05]

Unless Indicated #4 (Winter 2004): This is a straight-up photocopied punk rock fanzine. Brenda and her friends offer personal writing on annoying people, Columbus Day, female condoms, suicidal tendencies and children, Sex in the City, interviews with the bands Weapons of Mass Destruction and TWS, and other material. While the DIY nature of the zine is open and honest, I wanted more in-depth analysis in the brief personal essays. The slightly local flair was welcome, as was the recipe and comic strip "Leela's Day," but more personal writing and self-exploration would be welcome. I could do without the candid snapshots of friends. P.O. Box 30117, Bakersfield, CA 93385 [$2 or trade 32S :09]

Untamed Highway #1 (October 2004): Curious what Marc Hansen of Ralph Snart and Bill Wray of Cracked magazine are up to? Not this. Influences aside -- despite a name drop of Big Daddy Ross -- this heavily inked, dense comic tells the largely inscrutable tale of tiki icons, fraternal orders, private detectives, alcohol, rivalries, and carny conspiracies. Despite the reference material and popcult references, the comic largely fails to deliver. That said, the Harvey Kurtzman ad reference and drabstick back-page "Goodnight Irving" comic strip did please. Noah Snodgrass and Shawn Dickinson, P.O. Box 246, Little Rock, CA 93543 [$3.95 US/$4.95 Other 36M :07]

Elementary Warblogging

This weekend, I found this "essay" that I wrote in third grade back in 1982 or so. It was written in pencil on handwriting paper.

If I were President I would go all by myself to Iran and free all the hostages. And if I could pick Vice President I think I would pick P.B. I think I picked her because I liked her in Second grade and if she diden't like the job I would pick Miss B. and if she dident like the job. I would have the whole Army take the job and if they dident I would take the job. And if I dident take the job well I dont know. Maybe if my wife took me to McDonalds every night I would take the job not yes but maybe ya hear. Now dont go whopee I said maybe okay okay okay this is a recording no not realy its me Ronald Reagon talking okay belive me I am Ronald McDonald I make Cheese Burgders and Fris with onions and other fixens and a coke no not realy I am Ronald Reagon and I dont make Cheese Burgers or Fris I work at nenos and I make steaks and potatoes and milk or coffee and instead of just working at nenos I work at the white house and at a toy store and a used car shop or I would work always at the white house. the end

If you need any more help from me, Mr. Bush, you know where to find me.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Libraries I Like II

The head of DePaul University's Special Collections and Archives, Kathryn DeGraff, emailed me today with an update on the Chicago Great Lakes Underground Press Collection:

After some years with little attention, a volunteer with interest in the Zine collection surfaced here over a year ago. Bradley Harris worked to get the materials from the UPC sessions and collecting in order. In the course of working with him, I realized there was renewed interest in the overall zine collection and have have allocated some staff time to work on it and with it. We have completed the UPC materials - we're calling it the Chicago Great Lakes Underground Press Collection to clearly define the collecting scope. Your material is all that really comes close to our original intent to build an archives of a zine publisher. And in the way of things coming together, we have a new volunteer, Keith Helt who has begun work on your materials. It's a way from being done yet, but if you want to take a look at what we have done already, you can. We plan an exhibit for the fall, and with a workshop scheduled here at DePaul, through the Visual Arts Education program in the School of Education in September, I think the time might be good for the overall collection to take on new life.

Good news indeed! I have several boxes of materials I need to send DePaul -- be sure to check out their online catalog!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Music to My Ears LXVIII

I just created a new iMix: American Gods Soundtrack. It's a collection of music and musicians mentioned in Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods.

Media Meet Space V

Vice magazine operates shops. Penthouse has licensed its name to strip clubs. Now Maxim is getting in on the meet space action.

Coming soon: Maxim-branded lounges. Perfect: Now there'll be a place where I can play Golden Tee, drink Red Bull, give nerds wedgies, and make eyes at the wait staff. Wait. How is this different than Hooters again? Oh, it's funny?

Staff Infection

Here's an idea with questionable tact: Organize a 100th anniversary party for a venerable periodical, say, Variety, but don't invite anyone who's been hired to work there since, say, almost two decades ago. While current staff seem to be taking things in stride, there's quite a difference between a reunion of former staffers -- and a magazine's anniversary party. Will Variety follow with a party all its own? Will Syd Silverman be invited?

Popcult Quiz

Q: Which death metal band does Ace Ventura take the stage with near the end of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective?

A: Cannibal Corpse

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Source of All Ill

Two execs from the hip-hop magazine The Source got in a scrap at a New York nightclub late last month. The mag's president and marketing director got involved in the gun play following an argument about whether the nightclub would play a merengue or rap CD.

Who knew merengue enthusiasts could be so hardcore?