Archive for April, 2010


Radio doesn’t get any better than this.

If you haven’t heard this astonishing Radio Lab episode from a few weeks ago or the recent installment of This American Life that featured it, I recommend downloading or streaming it when you get a chance.

It’s not safe for work and not the sort of thing you can just put on in the background. You’ll want to set aside some time to just take it all in. Long drive, long walk, home alone stuff.

And as with TAL, if you like what you hear, consider dropping some shekels in the virtual hat.

The Pacific is a Big Ocean

Shintaro Kago is a Manga artist you’re unlikely to see at your local Borders or Barnes and Noble anytime soon, but boy, what I wouldn’t give for a collection of his work in English. Some of the craziest experimental comics since Art Spiegelman’s early comics in Arcade (later collected in Breakdowns).

An anthology or two have included short pieces, but because of the pornographic nature of a lot of the images, we’re stuck plowing through scanlation sites to see this master at work.

Rather than point to specific sites, I’ll just encourage you to browse Kago’s various scattered images and click on whatever looks cool, but do search for Kago’s brilliant “Abstraction” (NSFW!) for a real mind-bender.

Here’s an interview with the guy. And if you want to ask the Interwubs to translate it for you, Kago has a blog.

Art is Everything

A great story from Larry saves me the trouble of coming up with one of my own this morning.

Back to work!

The Mystery Quote

“Write as if everyone you ever loved was dead.”

It’s great advice for writers. Right up there with “Murder your Darlings” (Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, apparently) and “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water” (Kurt Vonnegut).

But who said it?

I must have the phrasing off, since Googling yielded nothing, but I’m sure that was the essential meaning of the advice. McEwan said something similar regarding parents, and there’s a jumbled similarity to something by Lynn Freed (both via Twitter), but otherwise I’m drawing a blank, so I’m turning to you.

Does anyone recognize this advice?

Five Days to Go

Jess Smart Smiley is Kickstarting a 500 copy run of his cool short story comic “A Map in the Dirt.”

Both Jess and Patrick Farley are five days from their goal (as I write this) and well within striking distance of making it (and they both deserve to). Feel free to help them over the finish line if you like what you see.

I’m intrigued by the Kickstarter phenomenon which seems to be getting a bit more traction than I would have expected. Looks like the arts community is getting increasingly comfortable with this sort of thing.

Donations have been around for a long time of course, but they’ve had a spotty history (Joey Manley once famously said “begging is not a business model” and he had a point at the time). Maybe all we needed was a central clearinghouse to make it viable.

Giving is getting easier! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been really grateful to see things like text message donations and supermarket check-out donations popping up lately.

I give more now, not because my conscience has evolved or anything but just because I’m lazy, and I know I’m not alone. It’s a great trend.

[Edit to add: Both Jess and Patrick made their goals with 3 days to spare! Congratulations to both.]

Friday Odds and Ends: BBC does Comics, True Swamp Online, and Serendipity via Twitter

Reader Jacob Stevens Corvidae emailed me with a link to “another Kick-Ass debate”; Kevin Smith on the BBC’s Newsnight Review, discussing both the film and the comic with author Jeanette Winterson (whose novels Jacob strongly recommends) and comedian Natalie Haynes (Part 3 above being especially lively).

A few quotes taken out of context might be depressing to comics enthusiasts, but I was actually delighted to see comics’ new rules of engagement in play. The medium’s potential for great work seemed a settled question (Winterson even name-checked City of Glass), so the debate centered instead on whether they were living up to that potential and that’s a question I’d love to see raised as often as possible.

Also, I just liked everybody on the show.

In other news, our old pal Jon Lewis has brought his ’90s classic True Swamp back to life via the Web. Gotta bookmark that.

And finally, Kazu tweeted a recommendation for this little gem by Luke Pearson so I’m passing it along. An odd but stimulating read.

Well, That’s not even Subtext…

Rich Johnston has a snappy write-up on the big announcement that Archie Comics is introducing its first gay character.

In 2010.

Let that one sink in for a moment. (Fun fact: Archie first appeared in 1941).

Best of all though are the clips at the bottom of the article, with some very easily “misread” panels and covers from Archie Comics’ history, including my favorite above.

Dreams and Memes

Shaenon Garrity has a dream in Slow Wave this week. Good excuse to link again to this delightful, long-running archive of reader-submitted dreams, drawn by Jesse Reklaw.

Meanwhile, here’s an embryonic meme that might catch on (if it can escape the Livejournal tarpits): Jason Turner’s Page 100 Project, now picked up by Rebecca Dart and others.

Wrong Question?

Related to yesterday’s post, there’s a controversy brewing over whether video games are “Art” or not, spurred on by various comments by film critic Roger Ebert.

A couple of people have even Beetlejuiced* me, wondering which side of the issue I’d come down upon. Anyone who’s read the art chapters of UC or RC can probably guess my response.

If you’re asking if videogames are art, I think you’re asking the wrong question. I don’t think art is an either/or proposition. Any medium can accommodate it, and there can be at least a little art in nearly everything we do.

Once in a while, someone makes a work in their chosen medium so driven by aesthetic concerns and so removed from any other consideration that we trot out the A-word, but even then it’s a matter of degrees, and for most creative endeavors you can find a full spectrum from the sublime to the mundane.

The idea that for the lack of a single brush stroke or word balloon or camera angle, we could consign something as complex as a painting or a graphic novel or a motion picture to the art equivalent of Heaven or Hell does a disservice to the depth and breadth of those forms. There’s no hard dividing line, no thumbs up or thumbs down for these things.

Games are an interesting case though. Duchamp insisted that the viewer is a contributor to the creative act, and on several levels actually completes the work. In games, that “user interaction” is more than just a contribution to the work—it’s the very substance of the thing. The idea of abdicating authorship to the user (a concept I first heard about from game designer Doug Church) gets pretty close to the DNA of all games.

Does “abdicating authorship” mean abdicating any hopes of high art though? I don’t think so. But what do I know? I make comic books.

“I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.” –Marcel Duchamp

Talk, Rock, Kick, Ass

Catching up a bit:

Liked the visual essay Less Talk More Rock on BoingBoing last month. Good approach to tackling a problem in games that assails every medium; how to reconnect with core principles and the unique potential of an art form in the face of commercial dilution and the imported sensibilities of other media.

Getting ”back to basics” can be much more than just turning back the clock. Taken in its more profound sense, it’s also the key to moving forward.

Saw Kick-Ass last night. Not bad, though our crowd might have been happier if the movie had just been called Hit-Girl (Yeah, yeah… balanced round-up of that little controversy here).

I confess to not having read many of Mark Millar’s comics yet, although I’ve noticed that every time he comes up, someone always seems to be angry at him. What’s that all about?

For me, the coolest part was seeing THE preview in a theater for the first time, and hearing SP name-checked in the movie.

Oh, and the Sparks song!!