Friday, April 18, 2014

The struggle to concentrate.

On one hand, I need to finish lettering this two-page spread.

On t'other, I really want to write Dave Sim about Canadian firearm laws.

Yet another riveting day in the land of inky noses, kids.

Melt Yourself Down - Release

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mea maxima culpa.

Apologies to everyone for dragging my feet with the release of LAST ASTRONAUT. I want to have at least one chapter done before I begin serialization. Art is progressing slowly because the script needs to be rocksteady. That said, I'm halfway through writing the book now and believe I can have the whole thing in print before 2015.

Dirty Beaches - Au Revoir Mon Visage

Friday, April 11, 2014

scrapfile (1)

"When the Light of the Endless was drawn in the form of a straight line in the Void... it was not drawn and extended immediately downwards, indeed it extended slowly — that is to say, at first the Line of Light began to extend and at the very start of its extension in the secret of the Line it was drawn and shaped into a wheel, perfectly circular all around."

--quoted in Philip Berg's The Kabbalah:
A Study of the Ten Luminous Emanations....
with Commentaries Sufficient for the Beginner,
Vol. II

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Get your pocketwatches out.

Your phone has a timer function. Set it for twenty seconds. If what demands my attention doesn't attract yours, stroll on.

House Bill 60 for the state of Georgia contains provisions designed to prohibit cops from checking the permits of individuals carrying guns.

If you're still reading, you might be asking the same question I am: how does that make any sense? Doesn't it kind of nullify the point of requiring gun owners to possess a permit? Here in Georgia, we're broadening the scope of concealed-carry and "stand your ground" laws, making it so that gun cultists may take their weaponry into Chick-Fil-A, or church, or the movie theatre, or campus, or the emergency room, or daycare, or the capitol building... Essentially anyplace that doesn't have a posted notice banning firearms on the premises. Lawmakers are making it so that the NRA & its satellite organizations can walk all over the rest of us. The pro-gun lobby won't be satisfied until they can carry their weapons anydamnwellwhere they please. No matter how many reservations you or I may have about that. No matter how many state & federal laws were written over the last century to prevent a nationwide devolution to the wild west. Here we are.

Concealed carry. Stand your ground. Fill your hand, stranger.

Here we are, at legislation designed to prevent police from doing their jobs and protecting you, me, and the well-intentioned constitutionally-protected gun owner from rage-filled idiots, irresponsible drunks & crank addicts, and the rare capricious freakazoid like James Holmes. Here we are, at laws written solely to gratify the kind of voters who brazenly sport assault rifles at peace rallies just to get a rise out of folks. Because what other kind of justification is there for this provision? Who profits from this frankly paranoid, counterproductive provision?

Are we at the point in the gun culture argument... Please, don't delude yourself into believing this is a debate; the pro-gun lobby isn't interested in any opinions other than gun manufacturers'. --Are we at the point in this fervid, empty shouting match where munitions profiteers are so actively invested in retooling society in their image that the only thing which could conceivably cool their escalating rhetoric is to entirely nullify licensing? Because that seems to be the direction in which this is all headed. And that terrifies me.
How long, oh Lord, how long? And how much longer will we have to wait before some high-powered shark with a fistful of answers will finally bring us face-to-face with the ugly question that is already so close to the surface in this country, that sooner or later even politicians will have to cope with it?

Is the democracy worth all the risks and problems that necessarily go with it? Or, would we all be happier by admitting that the whole thing was a lark from the start and now that it hasn’t worked out, to hell with it.

--Fear & Loathing in the Bunker
Hunter S. Thompson, 1979

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

No Tickee Autopsy: Synedoche New York

Things SNY has taught me:

Twenty minutes into the original SOLARIS, there's a first person driving scene that lasts an interminably long time. I say interminably because the endless sojourn along a Tokyo highway seems to serve no purpose. In interviews, however, Tarkovsky says he included it to shoo out impatient viewers. In SYNEDOCHE, NEW YORK Hazel's burning house serves the same function. The guy who introduced me to the film couldn't get past the fact that the house was always on fire. Numerous literal-minded critics have had the same problem. While I don't believe the purpose of Hazel's house was to weed out the audience, it certainly does that, and that kind of filter is something art with serious intention needs: a sign to indicate "This is the kind of story I'm telling. If you're not down with my intentions you should probably check out because I don't need to hear you whining about it later."

Similarly, there's a painfully long take in 71 FRAGMENTS OF A CHRONOLOGY OF CHANCE of one of the characters playing ping-pong against a machine. It's one of those mechanisms like you see in baseball training cages, firing one ball after another. At three minutes it's no highway through Tokyo, but what it does is force you to observe the player. After the novelty wears off and the ennui dissipates, you start reading his body language: he's training himself to be a machine, and because he's trying to be mechanical a third of his swings are in error because the mechanism firing the balls isn't consistent. After the body language, you start to read his face: he goes from blankness to something resembling pain to a moment of pure angst. The protracted take encourages (if not forces) us to attempt empathy with the player.

This applies to SYNEDOCHE as well because, while none of the takes are nearly as long-- we're never given much of a chance to become bored or even content with a given moment --the comedic motif of bodily discontent experienced by the main character, Caden Cotard, starts out funny; becomes horrific; eventually ekes into being tiresome ("C'mon, you're just a hypochondriac!"); and eventually levels out into a sustained observation on the aging process. This running gag serves the same purpose: it encourages empathy by defying traditional audience expectations. It's such a constant we expect it to develop into something, but it doesn't as such. A muscle spasm in Caden's leg becomes a limp becomes the need for a cane. We expect the litany of disease & injury he experiences to result in his eventual death; instead it becomes part of the character's experience of being In A Body, providing an empathetic link for any viewer who's ever worried about an ache or inexplicable symptom.

The relation between Hazel's eternally-burning house and Caden's hypochondria is their absurdity. They seem absurd as viewed from without. SYNEDOCHE, NEW YORK is theatre of the absurd, literally & figuratively. These are people subject to the whimsical forces of the world. Their plight is essentially the same, though of the two Hazel is the only one actively conscious of it: "I like [the house], I do; but I'm really concerned about dying in the fire." To which she's answered, "It's a big decision, how one prefers to die." Caden's life, dedicated to the theatre, results in a strange transience whereby he goes from living in his house to living in the stage version of his house to eventually living in someone else's life entirely. It is in this other identity that Caden dies, whereas Hazel dies peacefully at home, in bed, some thirty years after having bought into the thing which kills her. The absurdity of living in a reminder of her death is a stark contrast to Caden, who's perpetually fretting over whether his body will betray him but never thinks about the fact that being human is a guarantee of eventual demise. Both are taunted by outside forces, but of the two only Hazel comes to terms with it.

All this stuff that sounds like theory, weirdly, is accomplished by SNY being mind-bogglingly ambitious. It goes out of its way to make things complicated for the film-makers, in service to creating something that could ONLY exist in cinema. It's hard work, making art. I don't envy the staff the logistics involved. It's also extremely admirable, in my eyes: Matt Fraction is working to be the Steven Soderbergh of comix right now, crafting things that can only exist in comics. Brandon Graham has that passion. Josh Cotter creates art that could only exist on paper. Shouldn't there be more filmmakers working to create stuff like SNY? Working to create art that could only exist in the medium of film? That's something Matthew Barney does-- sneer at CREMASTER if you like, and take some satisfaction from knowing you're probably partly right about some aspect of these being failed film or failed art --but CREMASTER could only ever exist in cinema. It's not just a bundle of unrelated ideas, it's a startling undertaking of a decade's worth of effort that exists because, as Soderbergh has remarked: art is inevitable. It had to exist. Same for SYNEDOCHE, NEW YORK. It had to happen. Aronofsky's films, when they're teetering on the edge of not happening, he reverts to comics books as a kind of poor man's storyboard. To me this means his films are weak. That he can produce them as comix easier than producing them as movies is indicative of their relative simplicity. I could not conceive of SNY being a comic. It could be done, I suppose, but it would have to be the size of a Cerebus phone book in order for it to come across... maybe two, like both volumes of Church & State. But then it would not be SNY as it impressed itself on me.

SNY is funny because it teaches you to cry. It's serious because it asks you to work. It's amazing because it defies every expectation. It's one hell of a first movie for a first-time director. It was a courageous risk and in my estimation a success, though commercially it was a total flop. I sincerely hope Charlie Kaufman gets another chance.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

No Tickee Autopsy: The Skin I Live In.

What a gorgeous, strange, delectable, clever, insidious, brave, devious, cool film. EYES WITHOUT A FACE if Cronenberg had grand passion. Bandaras plays a great sympathetic villain. Elena Anaya accomplishes something I'm unsure I've ever seen in a film before: she's two different people, one of whom she doesn't remember being. The score pulls the marvelous trick of being very subdued wallpaper then gradually rising to the fore without ever interfering with the naturally occurring melodrama. The set dressing is glorious and very memorable, as is the costuming. The story's nicely pulpy with a sci-fi tinge but takes a comfortable back seat to the characters, because at heart this is a family drama. I started the film a dispassionate observer and by the end I was clutching a pillow, leaning toward the screen, praying for the protagonist. And the ending is heartrendingly gratifying.

A very rewarding film. Really wish I'd seen it in the theatre. Adding this one to my library as soon as possible.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rocksolid choice.

Skipped my employer's tenth anniversary party, and very glad I did. Am now in the dead center of LAST ASTRONAUT and have only the other half to go. It pleases me to prefer progress over empty time carousing. Best life choice I've ever made.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

No Tickee Autopsy: me () my.

When NYMPH()MANIAC first came to my attention, I added it to my list despite my extreme disappointment with MELANCHOLIA and mixed feelings about ANTICHRIST. Whether I love a project of his (DOGVILLE) or find it boring if not barely-coherent (MANDERLAY) Lars is worth watching. He works to his strengths, confronts his own inadequacies, and has learned to avoid his weaknesses, so each successive work he produces has a merit that the previous didn't possess: you can always see him growing & developing as a filmmaker, even if it isn't to your tastes. It's why I enjoy Soderbergh's films, and Lynch's, and Herzog's, and McQueen's. Growth. I'll compare & contrast them with previous works, but rarely do I find myself saying "I would have done that differently," because that's balls; I wouldn't do any such thing because I'm not a filmmaker, and what I have learned from film is nothing compared to what these creators know & are capable of executing. "I would have...." is a sentiment I reserve for lesser flicks and mainstream Marvel tentpole movies. I wouldn't have made MELANCHOLIA the way Lars did: but there's no likelihood that I would have made anything of its kind at all. Depression has been a factor in my life these last few years, but not one which I feel can sustain a story thematically. No matter how irritable the film made me, I had to give von Trier credit for trying. His will to film the elusive & anti-theatrical is positively Bergmanesque in its ambition. And MELANCHOLIA, for all my finding fault with it, begins so beautifully I really can't fault it for existing despite my overweening need to find justification for it. Beauty, no matter how hollow, has a tendency to justify itself.

When the trailer for NYMPH() first hit theatres, I found myself speechless. I had no idea what I'd just seen. It didn't look like a Lars von Trier film. It didn't sound like a Lars film. In terms of editing & music cues it had more in common with Lynch or Soderbergh than the cruel, programmatic logic I'd come to associate with recent von Trier projects. It had a sense of spontaneity. It also lacked the distanced eye, the reserved attitude toward beauty he's showcased in the last few years. It wasn't Tarkovskyesque at all. It had passion. It was confrontational. It sparked with ire. Nevermind that I personally find Rammstein to be repetitive & trashy (LOST HIGHWAY and MTV playout left me loathing the band), the trailer captured my attention at a time when my interest in film-- and, honestly, von Trier --was flagging. I'd re-watched his Europe trilogy and realized that ELEMENT OF CRIME still compelled me, EPIDEMIC still eluded me, and EUROPA still bored me. THE KINGDOM remains a high point in television. But outside moments of weird, frightening genius like THE IDIOTS or DANCER IN THE DARK he didn't electrify me as much as he used to. For every FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS there was a KINGDOM 2. The necessity of FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS is obvious. The necessity of KINGDOM 2 is dubious at best. And that's something I've come to think about a lot in recent years, looking around the media landscape: does X film need to exist? Is it a film at all, or is just a movie? When you start to doubt the necessity of your favorite artists' efforts there is every chance that you (or the society in which you are struggling to survive) have outgrown them.

When I saw the first half of NYMPH(), all these nagging doubts sluiced away like so much sulfuric pollen filth in spring rain. Gone was the programmatic approach to structure, to composition, to presentation, to set & setting, to "training" his actors, to the exhaustive, tyrannical, compulsive control which had begun to choke the life from his films, the very thing that had made me wonder whether he even enjoyed his art anymore. It was suffused with humor. The japes were constant; though his eye was wry as ever, his wit had returned after the season of fear that was ANTICHRIST & MELANCHOLIA. The urge to experiment with form, with film, to wrestle with ideas and their eventual enemy, aging, suffuses the script. Everything is a question with no clear answer but a willingness to hazard a guess, and the roguish wink is never far behind. The film, like its ostensible subject, sex, is very much alive and earnest and never so po-faced that it refuses to digress into absurdity.

NYMPH()MANIAC is a comedy.

With all that implies. There is existential doubt and eventually worry, hubris, and error, pratfalling into sorrow. But it never stops searching or struggling to find a line of inquiry that might lead itself, and us, out of the labyrinth of doubt. And NYMPH() is like that throughout its second half as well. Charlotte Gainsbourg is without a doubt the bravest actress I have ever seen. Stellan Skarsgård is a comic genius. Even Christian Slater surprised me. Jean-Marc Barr, an actor I've never been particularly compelled by, caught me off guard. The subject matter IS the story, and the story is the human search for meaning in a world where mind & body aren't ever far apart and time, far from being the enemy, is our guardian and mentor. It's the subject matter that allows even the least technically challenging role-- Udo Kier as a waiter, say, or Willem Dafoe as a blackmailer who operates from behind a desk --to take over the screen and usurp our reliance on the narrator (Charlotte, as Joe) & her interlocutor (Stellan, as Seligman), though they are never far away, always ready to interrupt our immersion with some sally into irrelevant detail (the Fibonacci sequence) or idle decorum (whether it's appropriate to serve rugelach with a cake fork). And what does any of this have to do with sex? Ultimately the second volume, concerned with Joe's aging, failures as a parent & wife, and her struggles with anorgasmia & celibacy, asks what sex has to do with sexuality. Is the act the thing? Is it reliant on emotion? From whence does it originate? How much of its is nature or nurture? How much of it is desire, or lust, or fantasy, or character, or psychology, or ennui, or fear? Is it the foundation of our animal existence, or is it an existential enigma? It it us, or are we just crazy?

Sex is not just a question, Lars proposes: sex is The Question. It stymies & puzzles, frustrates & titillates, compels & denies us as we alternately attempt to deify & deny it. Yes to every question you have, and no to all in individual turn. Sex is the contradiction at the root of our existence, posed in the midst of ANTICHRIST: the tree that perpetually rains acorns in the thousands in the hope that a single seed may find purchase. Its purpose is outwith its capacity for pleasure, but is pleasure without purpose? What is gratification, anyway? Lars isn't just asking these questions of the air: he's asking us.

NYMPH() is an ambitious narrative, and it chooses not to entertain a 'coherent' approach to the philosophical implications of what, at its roots, is a highly idiosyncratic personal history couched in a willingness to mock every last detail alongside every sacred cow. It's worth watching in the theatre, and it's worth re-watching, and it's rewarding. It's everything I could have asked, and it has renewed my faith in Lars. In addition it's a mighty funnny anti-suicide note.

Your mileage will, no doubt, vary-- but fuck you, here's to me.

Friday, April 4, 2014

No Tickee Autopsy: two for the price of dumb.


NOAH is intelligent & interesting in some respects, pig-ignorant & dull in others.

There's an effort to incorporate evolution into a biblical narrative-- suggested by the ostensible hero of the piece --yet zero interest in contemplating Nature vs. Nurture when confronted with the question of human evil. Ray Winstone is a great exemplar of capital-EEEEvil wickedness as Tubal-cain, but then there's Noah, who starts off as the hero and pulls a heel-turn in the middle of the film by letting a woman die because he believes (for reasons that are never clearly manifest) that he & his family are meant to be the final caretakers of earth. Not that he intends for his family to start the species over, no: he explains that they're to care for the animals and land until they bury one another, and no-one is meant to have babies because the human species has the capacity for sin. Tubal-cain believes in the right of kings and masculine superiority, whereas Noah has a weirdly passive-aggressive faith in god's will yet never questions his own interpretation until the very end, at which point he becomes a self-pitying drunk-- not because he knew himself to be a dick, but because he failed god and, perhaps, because he terrorized his family. This seems significantly a bigger deal than being a carnivorous robber baron, which is pretty much Tubal-cain's deal... And Tubal-cain, unlike Noah, seems to have a concept of honor that Noah lacks. It's a corrupt & violent idea of honor, admittedly, very kingly, but it's more admirable for being pro-active and protective than Noah's course of action, which culminates in bullying women & children on behalf of the Creator.

Grim stuff and frankly dumbed-down, more interested in cheap theatrics than earnest theological (much less ethical) debate. The grim demeanor extends to the color palette of the film & the cinematography. The main points of color tend toward gold, even when such glimmers don't seem appropriate-- as in the case of Methuselah, played by Anthony Hopkins, healing his adopted granddaughter, Ila, with what can only be called The Horny Touch. Ila's barren, and Methuselah allows himself to be convinced to use his mountain man magics to fix her, which leads to a truly weird scene where Ila's compelled to run off and jump Shem's bones in the middle of the forest. "Granddaddy Lector gave me a libido!" It's the most tone-deaf scene in the whole thing, and it's a fiddly CG golden glow that sets it off. I have NO idea what Aronofsky thought he was accomplishing with this. In an earlier scene Ila's so upset by her own inability to have children she turns Shem down when he kisses her scar, so somehow it takes Methuselah to help her get it on? It's gross.

There are high points: the Watchers, fallen angels who are literally trapped by the gross matter of our world. Their inclusion in the story gives Aronofsky an excuse for a truly LoTR action sequence with a fence of six-armed rock monsters turning a human horde into man-jelly. The stop-motion sequences and Garden of Eden bits are beautiful and strange. The serpent of Eden's shed skin serves as a tefillin prior to giving a blessing... But details like these keep me wishing that there were more details and fewer fight scenes. This is without a doubt the stabbingest, punchingest biblical epic I've ever seen, but I don't feel like the emphasis on apocalyptic action does the subject matter any favors. For a fable about preserving the animal world there's extraordinarily little screentime for the creatures themselves that doesn't involve either their bloody sacrifice or their being drugged to sleep.

Like I said, confused & conflicted and too big-budget for its own good.

For reasons that I no longer quite recall, the CAPTAIN AMERICA sequel seemed like an antidote.

It had some laughs. It had some big action scenes. It didn't have much heart. The titular antagonist, the Winter Soldier, didn't have much room admist all the 'splode and punching to do any real acting. I couldn't quite tell whether it was the actor's fault or not: I suspect he's not a very good actor, yet what with all the other players onsceen (Fury, agent Hill, Sam "Falcon" Wilson, Black Widow and all their opposite numbers in the Hydra camp plus Robert Redford) he doesn't get much opportunity to prove me wrong. He's either dealing out brutality or yelling angrily, except in his Bucky flashbacks.

And there's a thing: the sequel suffers from the Iron Man 2 problem. Its script is altogether too reliant on the first film but not in ways that contribute to the overall story, either the first Captain America film or the present one. The cast is so broad the main character doesn't have enough time to really work through his central problem, which seems to be "What makes you happy?" His answer is "I don't know." And it ends on a pitch for a third film. There's a flirtation between Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff that doesn't really go anywhere or add anything, even though I kind of wish it had.

Whatever. It's not even worth picking apart. It works for what it is. The real problem with both these films is me. I'm not the demographic for them. So I called it a day, went home and watched HAYWIRE for the first time. That I enjoyed HAYWIRE more than either NOAH or CAP2 probably has deeper significance than I care to contemplate considering all I really wanted was just a fun break from reading Nietzsche and hacking at script.

special post-"Lame!" wrapup rant

Part of my problem with CAP2 is I don't care for superhero fables all that much anymore. My baggage regarding superheroics is how frequently they're conflated in the public eye with Comic Books, the medium, while superheroes are in essence the rock'n'roll (or more aptly in my estimation, the hair metal) of the comics form. It's like saying all painting is watercolor: it's an ignorant, consumerculture-fed assessment of consensus appeal. Or saying "My kid could draw that" of Picasso or Pollack or Warhol. Perhaps they could: but would they do it as well? Would what they created constitute a new (or at least individual) statement in their preferred idiom? That's the big problem with superheroes, is that your kid COULD write or draw something just as good as or better than a great deal of what's made the stands. Something purer, for sure. It would NOT be Brubaker's Captain America or Morrison's Superman or Jeff Smith's Captain Marvel or Paul Pope's Batman or Rick Veitch's Swamp Thing or Gaiman's Black Orchid or even Dave Sim's Spawn. [Yes, it exists. Yes, it's about as weird as you might imagine.] But it would be better than your average Company Product. That's the thing about capitalism: the mills must produce a constant stream of pap or the genre would devolve to hobbyist levels of interest. Which is where it began. Superhero comics are reliant on superhero films to keep the culture mills grinding ever-finer fractals of the same grist.

The Captain America movie isn't Brubaker's Captain America in the same way superhero films aren't "comic book movies". What I carried into my viewing of CAP2 was having to correct my coworkers & patrons at the bar where I work when they mischaracterized this decade-long tumult of superhero flix as "comic book movies" which, aside from being a total fucking misnomer, is also unfair to those non-superhero comic books which have served as the basis for decent films. The superhero films we are seeing out of Time-Warner could, sadly, be written by the wannabe Malachi Nicolles of this fallen, post-Soderbergh world. The Marvel films are on a on-again, off-again wave of half-bright & mediocre. For every THOR: THE DARK WORLD there's a MARVEL'S™ AVENGERS®. Whedon's AVENGERS inspires me significantly less than the weakest issue of Matt Fraction's Hawkeye. This MEANS something, dammit.

CAP2 commits the same error all superhero properties in print or film have been making at least half as long as I've been alive: they keep pretending to importance they do not possess. Superhero comics and superhero movies keep mistaking sturm & drang for Meaning. Chris Nolan, I'm looking at you. The writers & artists & producers & directors & actors who participate in these things all would have you believe that they Mean Something outside being commonplace entertainment. CAP2 says it wants you to think about the true meanings of patriotism & terrorism & fear-mongering & the untrustworthiness of the military-industrial complex & fascism & the patriarchal implications of a phallus-waggling government but what it's TRULY about is making money. It has zero deeper significance, no higher goal. It is not art. It is product, and not infrequently artless product. It's about making you stay in your seats through the final credits to know which two films to put on your itinerary for future viewing. It's about selling you the next two films. It's about planned obsolescence: it's a movie that's selling you its own replacements. It's the zero-sum story because the story is constant conflict, an endless war.

For all NOAH's muddled messaging and rilly weird gender issues, it's at least a film with ideas. (That serpent skin serving as the magical proof that our species is blessed, for instance.) CAP2 is a movie with claims where it ought to have ideals, and that to me represents the greater failing of superhero comics as a whole.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The value of dream life.

"Concerning this naïve artist the analogy of dreams will enlighten us to some extent. When we realize to ourselves the dreamer, as in the midst of the illusion of the dream-world and without disturbing it, he calls out to himself: 'It is a dream! I will dream on',; when we must thence infer a deep inner joy in dream-contemplation; when, on the other hand, to be able to dream with this inner joy in contemplation, we must have completely forgotten the day and its terrible obtrusiveness, we may, under the direction of the dream-reading Apollo, interpret all these phenomena to ourselves somewhat as follows. Though it is certain that of the two halves of life, the waking and the dreaming, the former appeals to us as by far the more preferred, important, excellent and worthy of being lived, indeed, as that which alone is lived: yet, with reference to that mysterious ground of our being of which we are the phenomenon, I should, paradoxical as it may seem, be inclined to maintain the very opposite estimate of the value of dream life. For the more clearly I perceive in nature those all-powerful art impulses, and in them a fervent longing for appearance, for redemption through appearance, the more I feel myself driven to the metaphysical assumption that the Verily-Existent and Primordial Unity, as the Eternally Suffering and Self-Contradictory, requires the rapturous vision, the joyful appearance, for its continuous salvation: which appearance we, who are completely wrapt in it and composed of it, must regard as Verily Non-existent-- i.e. as a perpetual unfolding in time, space and causality --in other words, as empiric reality. If we therefore waive the consideration of our own 'reality' for the present, if we conceive our empiric existence, and that of the world generally, as a representation of the Primordial Unity generated every moment, we shall then have to regard the dream as an appearance of appearance, hence as a still higher gratification of the primordial desire for appearance. It is for this same reason that the innermost heart of Nature experiences that indescribable joy in the naïve artist and in the naïve work of art, which is likewise only an 'appearance of appearance'."

--The Birth of Tragedy part 4, pps. 12-3
by Friedrich Nietzsche (1872)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Last year, I sent Dave this:
I wasn't expecting a reply.
And in response to this, Dave wrote to say:
Mail is nice. Much nicer than the internet.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"It might be the devil or it might be the Lord but you're going to have to serve somebody."

Dave Sim: Do you ever worry we're doing these things in service to something that we would be rather horrified we were in service to if we found out?

Alan Moore: Well, Dave, that's a hell of a question to ask a man who worships a snake.

--'Correspondence - From Hell' (Cerebus #217, 1997)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Three months since my last drink. Six months since I last smoked pot. At least as long since sex. Nine months since my last relationship. Well over a year since caffeine. I slip up and have chocolate now and again, but shit...

It's strange, hearing people ask the same questions over and over. Co-workers: "Are you still not drinking? Are you still not smoking?" It's tactless, the way people wax nostalgic about addictions you no longer share. "I remember when you used to drink. I liked it when you used to smoke." It's satisfying, the consternation in customers who wonder, "You work in a bar and you don't drink?" It's satisfying because I don't have to answer. It's satisfying because I know myself to be trustworthy and reliable and honest-- as much with myself as my boss. It was only my honesty with myself that was ever in doubt. That's what was making me crazy. That any of this interests or affects anyone other than myself is anyone's issue other than mine. Being drunk is boring. Being stoned is boring. That other people prefer my personality when I'm doing what every other idiot is doing isn't my fault. It isn't a "fault" at all. How could it be my fault when it's the superficiality of a society that considers excessive consumption an expression of individuality? It isn't a fault, it's a preference. If mine doesn't gel with yours, get bent.

It pleases me to say that last bit with a smile.

The satisfactions of being straight? Knowing that I'm not liable to ever slip into self-pity with chemicals as an excuse. Knowing that I'll never again confuse conviviality with raising a toast to whatever the excuse for self-immolation is. Knowing that I'll never have another hangover or paranoid fit where I wonder if my heart is fucked. Knowing that my recall isn't impaired. Knowing that I will always be able to remember my dreams. Knowing that I can get up and exercise without the abstract craving in the back of my brain that promises me a toke after I finish these reps, or says I can smoke a bowl after I finish these chores, or asks if we can get fucked up and draw. Knowing that that's all it ever was: getting fucked up. It served no purpose and it ate up funds. That my own father did (and to my knowledge, still does) this and thought it a righteous way of life is only further encouragement for me to stay straight. I'm not my dad.

Most of all, knowing that I did all this on my own, without a twelve-step program or personal support system. That it was my choice, my will. That it's my life and I have complete control over it.

The only real "reason" I had for chemical adventures was the seeming ease with which I could write or draw: but that's a common enough excuse among functioning addicts. Now that I've been straight a while, I can't say that it was ever productive to create while high. My critical facilities were impaired, and I was more prone to being careless (or labeling careless work 'creative' because it was easier than refining it). Sure: composition is more troublesome than I recall, but it's more satisfying, too. Art takes more time, more care; I'm more prone to pause & fret over execution. But the "ease" I used to experience in the act of creativity while under the influence was an illusion, because I also used to take twice as long to craft a simple effect. Weed neurosis, folks. I know that as my sobriety endures the creative act will evolve and become as natural as riding Godzirra across Atlanta. My linework's shit sure improved, I already recognize that.

The only remaining issue is (whoop!) the occasional panic attack. I had my first one in four months tonight. I work through them, literally, choosing instead to focus on finishing whatever task is in visual range than focus on the perception that my heartrate is off or my respiration is difficult or that the world feels wobbly and the walls are closing in because, well, none of that is actually true. It's just something I have to contend with from time to time. From time to time certainly beats once a week, which is where things were when I was smoking pot. If things continue as they are, maybe I'll be down to a panic attack once a year. Or less. Maybe the panic attacks were only ever giving in to addiction instead of sitting down to work on something important.

It's a hope.