Wednesday, December 31, 2003

I'd wish everyone a happy new year, but since half of America is going to be exterminated by Al Queda at midnight on the dot Eastern time, there isn't much point. I should clarify, not the better half.
I saw Return of the King again last week. To my undying shame, I actually understood a couple words spoken in Elvish.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

ORANGE CHRISTMAS REFLECTIONS

It's sort of hard to ignore the war on terror when you're at ground zero. I've been wondering one thing, though. If this raise in alet was caused by intelligence chatter, the likes of which we haven't seen since before the September 11, 2001 attacks, doesn't that mean the government is in fact acknowledging those attacks were predictable, anticipated, and could have been prevented? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Some last-minute shopping to do? Not getting jack shot from your so-called loved ones? Well, if you're into fine art, Gary Panter has a deal for you. His originals go for thousands in galleries, but right now he's selling 6" by 8" originals, "You provide one-to-three words and the artist will free associate thereupon." Go to his shop for more. I'm getting one. "Use Once & Destroy," of course.

Monday, December 22, 2003

I'M DREAMING OF AN ORANGE CHRISTMAS
I landed at Dulles airport yesterday. Apparently while I was in the air, the feds raised the terror alert level to Orange. Coincidence? I think not. But I made getaway before the so-called security even knew I was there. So long, suckers!
AND SO, A NUMBER OF HALF-ASSED THOUGHTS ON LORD OF THE RINGS...

Getting progressivly more half-assed, as it slowly dawns on me that I'm on vacation.
I AM A COLOSSAL GEEK

Okay, so I went and saw Return of the King on the nerd shift. Midnight, last Friday night. It finished four days later, and by the end, only 28 of a 400-plus member audience survived, the rest having succumbed to dehydration, toxic shock, despair and the cannabalistic depradations of stronger and more determined survivors, such as myself.

This movie has been praised all over as the movie of the year. My thoughts, more or less at random:

Of the more than 130 films about killer spiders, I believe this is the first that was actually any good at all, let only contained a believable -- and to be honest, fucking horrifying -- giant spider. Holy fuck. What an unbelievably tense scene. And it had a bigger than fuck spider. The one thing missing was the personality with which Tolkien imbued Shelob. I would have loved to see some subtitles as the thing menaced the midgets.



I couldn't believe the wholesale slaughter of elephants. Ivory must be at a premium in Middle Earth. Even my friend, a refined and compassionate woman, cheered when the pretty elf downed Babar. Was I the only one who felt any sympathy for those poor beautifuls beasts?

It was nice to see the Nazgul actually do something for a change. I guess that it was true to the books that their big show was to make the characters talk about how much other people feared them, but it was nice to actually see them cut loose and do rad shit like pick people up and throw them, and bash the fuck out of the Enemy. Um, I mean, the heroes. To be fair, their rides did all the work, and the minute one actually got down and started mixing it up, a girl shoved a sword through his face. But after two movies where all the the Ringwraiths did was scream like women and stab midgets. Fuck, if Sauron had me working for him, you can bet I would have done more than dress like a Dickensian stereotype and shreik nonsensically against the vertically challenged.



I thought it was pretty badass when Eowyn wasted the Witch King, even though the drama and momentum was damaged when the movie cut away to something I don't remember. That was disappointing.



Also disappointing was Aragon's public display of affection with Arwen. I could see him going for the Arwen of the books. God help me, I even realized that in my time, I've subconciously praised luminous brunettes by comparing them to her. I'm not sure that last sentence is going to survive into the next draft. But in these films, we're expected to believe anyone would choose a chubby, pontificating Liv Tyler over the welcoming and vivacious Miranda Otto? Fuck that. Sure, Arwen is an older woman, one who has presumeably laerned more in her thousand years of life than how to speak like priss. But she's also his fucking cousin, and now that I think of it, she never actually kills somebody, and her big action set piece involved running away from the Ringwraiths and then luring the morons into a river, which accomplishes the amazing feat of them coming back in the next movie, on even cooler rides than before. Yeah, Arwen, she's a real fucking catch.

I hope in the extended version, we get to see Faramir acheiving what is to my mind, the greatest triumph of the trilogy, which is to say he gets to marry Eowyn, the woman who is by far the best of the three women who live in Middle Earth, actually, does get to marry one of those three women (does extinction awaits man?), and best of all, gets to retain his top-ranking hereditary title with a thousand years of history and lineage behind it, while being only slightly demoted, presumeably to grow fat on the fruits of a life funded by the public while doing nothing for the rest of his days.

Can a man die with dignity when he is running around, encased in flamed, screaming insanely?

I was really rooting for Gollum, whose evil plan to sow discord among the Hobbits was straight out of Beverly Hills 90210.

One of the eighteen endings of Return of the King was awesome, as in what has to be the prettiest homoerotic reunion in all of fantasy, Frodo is joined on his bed by each survivor of the Fellowship in turn, each looking more beatiful, and hair breezing in slower motion than the last. It has to be seen to believed. Gimli opens his arms expectedly, like a mother welcoming his bitch back to maximum. And then fucking Legolas walks in wearing a headband. And finally Aragorn walks in wearing a white towel.

Gandalf whirling around with a stick and a sword was pretty cool, too, although I must have skipped the twenty pages that must have been devoted to it in the books. Perhaps they were in song. But it was badass on screen, making me wonder, how come we don't see that sword and staff two-handed combo more often?

Sloth from Goonies was the leader of the evil troops for the first battle. For a while, I dismissed this bloodless bureaucrat of an orc, but then, when he casually stepped out of the way of a house-sized boulder catapulted to his position, I gained a bit of respect for him. The he promptly went back to spitting over-disciplinary, even astrategic orders, and I again concluded that I was a better villain than him.

It's interesting how the institutionalized extended editions have shaped, and damaged Jackson's work on this series. Those seem like the real movies, and the theatrical versions come off like an edit of its eventual extended cut. Jackson was screwed by his reliance on these extended editions, completely dropping Sauruman from the final film, leaving a what the fuck happened to the heavy of the last two films vibe hanging over the third. Much of Return of the King comes off like the third act of David Lynch's Dune, where the story just started being summarized rather than completely told.

Speaking of Lynch, I thought of him when Gandalf rides up the sevel levels of Minas Tirith. And he was dramatically shown riding up one level, then a second, then a third, I realized, Christ, they were going to show him ride all the way up. Man.

Okay, I give up.

In conclusion: Miranda Otto!

As much as the Lord of the Rings, both films and books, deserve serious public mockery, I'm still such a geek for the shit I can feel my virginity growing back when I re-watch the trailers. Peter Jackson got these films right. The imagery in the films was exactly as I imagined when I read the books, and when it wasn't, it was better.

I disliked the constant denobling of the characters and their motivations. The books contain a sense of destiny, of great times coming to pass, and the characters accept their role in these times and seek to claim the destiny as their own. I liked how Aragorn determidy did his duty. I liked how debate was futile, how the choices were between action and destruction. I liked how Faramir and the Ents had convictions, and stayed true to them. I liked how the Hobbits accepted their quest, and entered it full-knowing the dangers and consequences. That was lost in these films, I'm afraid, as most of the characters joined the quest by accident.

Because Jackson has created a billion dollar blockbuster series, his real acheivement has been obscured. An independent, talented filmmaker, one even whose zombie movies betray a PBS or Merchant-Ivory tone of character, a man whose first two films had puppets, managed to create a massive, principled epic on his own terms. Though computers paid a large role, they were used to complement a filmmaking style that coould have been utilized a hundred years ago, where foreshortening and trick photography create a solidity the pixel villains in other films lack. And Jackson has created an epic of imagination. I realized half-way through Return of the King that I was craning my neck, trying to see what was lurking just off screen. What Jackson has acheived in these films is good for all the little guys, not in the least low-budget filmmakers.

I think Jackson's saving grace is because, as William Blake said of John Milton, he is of the Devil's party. His fascination with the grotesque and his warped sense of humor helped create a dedication to detail on the enemies less twisted filmmakers would have shorted. There's a clear line from the zombie baby in Dead Alive to the orcs in Lord of the Rings.

Sometimes it seemed like his attention worked against him. Listening to the commentaries on the dvds, it's clear he didn't want to introduce any characters he couldn't develop the way he felt they deserved, so there aren't any obvious red shirts marched out for cannon fodder. A lot of peripheral characters were eliminated from the trilogy. But the side characters add a sense of depth, of a word spilling off the borders of the screen, even if they just showed up, got a name check, and were run through.

And props for casting Christopher Lee. I think it's cool that as Lee is pushing 90, he's played the heavy in two epic trilogies, if one wants to include Star Wars. Man, that fucker is cool.

People are going to miss these films. Before the movie started, in the line for the bathroom a couple morons were sadly reading the poster, saying, "I can't believe the journey is ending."
I've disliked the propoganda misuse of the Lord of the Rings films in the War on Terror. I've been so corrupted by opinions and editorials that I honestly cannot discerne if Peter Jackson has intentially layered the films with this subtext, or if I only see it because others claim to.

Andrew Sullivan, for example, has made a number of outlandish comparisons, from comparing Bush to Frodo when the first movie came out, to the "Men of the West" cheer that goes up at the final battle on Return of the King being an appropriate rallying cry for the war. I don't undertsand the self-pity emenating from the most powerful nation in the world identifying itself with ludicrously outnumbered film characters.

Do neocons really look at the impoverished terrorists in the middle east and see an overpowering, outnumbering superior enemy force? I suppose only a country as massive, strong and reckless as ours can feel like such a self-pitying underdog.

One argument I've had with friends is about the current state of American freedom. I've heard sensible people argue that America is no better than the Taliban. No, I would say, a country that only cirumcises men is at least that much better than the Taliban. We're not living under a fascist regime.

But the Iraqis are. We've established a bona fide military dictatorship on the far side of the world.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Regarding www.justinsimmons.com...

I have some stories about the guy, back when I knew him as a dangerous psychopath using the name "Reverend Victor Rehcana." I'll get to those at some point, when I have the time and the stomach to wade through that sewar again. In the meantime, it is entertaining to fantasize about the careers that will be damaged or ended for those foolish enough to have been photographed with the man.
Your Michael Jackson Snideness of the Day

Well, no suprise that the King of Pop has been charged with drugging and molesting children. It is only my appreciation for his fine album Off the Wall and my sypathy for his childhood friendship with a rat that prompts me to give him this free advice: Keep your fucking family away from the media.

In this story, Jackie and Jermaine Jackson leap to their eccentric brother's defense, with approbation like, "My mom told him this a long time ago … said, 'One day they're going to pin something on Michael. Something that he loved the most is children. They're going to use that against him.' "

Thanks, guys. I predict that soon, very soon, LaToya will come forward and sell Michael out.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Thursday, December 11, 2003

A beautiful dose of reality from David Frum at National Review: Dean’s combination of weakness in foreign policy, ultra-permissiveness in social policy, and stinginess in fiscal policy isn’t “centrism”: It’s the politics of the dinner parties of Brentwood and East Hampton, of people who read Vanity Fair and don't need an SUV because their grocer delivers.

I couldn't give a fuck about Dean, but I'm amused by the concept that someone who owns a $40,000 car is part of the suffering poor. Is this class warfare, pitting the top two and three percent againt the top percentage of income earners?

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

It's 12:46 am, Pacific Standard Time, and I'm at work. I wish death on everyone.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Right after the end of Arrested Development on Fox, there was a PSA encouraging abused women to escape from their situation. I didn't catch the name of the production organization. It occured to me. I assume advertising isn't cheap, so advertisers are going to choose their time carefully, to make sure it reaches its target audience, right? So, was I watching a show that statically appealed to, and thus had a reachable target audience of abused women? God, I wonder if some of the other advertisers pursue that demographic as well.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

I missed the big story earlier this week. My Monday at 12:16 pm entry, featuring a mongoloid embracing a cocoon, was taken from the website of Creative Growth Arts Center, who provide creative art programs, educational and independent living training, counseling and vocational opportunities for adults who are physically, mentally and emotionally disabled.

I was browsing through the web site, and found these paintings by Terri Bowden:





I'm a little nervous about Michael Jackson popping up in scarifying artwork by mentally disabled artists. I wonder if it's a cultural phenomena, or is the King of Pop meeting these outsider artists? BTW, these painting are titled, "The Bad Thing That Happened Part 1," "The Bad Thing That Happened Part 2" and "The Bad Thing That Happened Part 3."

I think this needs to be investigated.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Monday, December 01, 2003

My Rissman was delivered today. I completely underestimated its 46" by 61" dimensions, thinking it displayed wide, rather than tall. It is tall. Very tall. I don't know where I'm going to put it. Luckily, December is a good month for re-arranging my apartment. I should throw a party in January to show off the new floor plan and artwork.

Once again:


Spiraling Galaxy

By the way, Dorothy's husband Benton Peugh is also a talented artist, and art installer.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Department of the inconsequential

Today I caught the tail end of Moonraker on the absurdly named Spike TV.

I assume Moonraker is considered one of the worst James Bond movies, clearly attempting to milk the success of Star Wars (which was released two years before) with a science fiction story.

While not as unworkable a concept as it sounds (I only say this because of a great sequence in the Secret Agent Corrigan comic strip by Al Williamson and Archie Goodwin, which saw the titular spy traveling to outer space), but Moonraker fucks it up grandy, combining then state of the art space shuttles with laser beams, and a truly preposterous insane plan by the villain.

Anyway, it's a very bizzare film. I was moved to write this because of one scene I caught, in which Walter Gotell, playing a recurring semi-villian, Soviet General Anatol Gogol, presumeably a bigwig in Russian intelligence, is being briefed on the situation by either the Americans or the British. After he rants about holding the West responsible for whatever consequences result from the evil plan, the Western representative apologises for waking the General up. The general says it's okay, he was having trouble sleeping anyway.

It struck me as strange.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003



Today would have been Charles Schulz' 81st birthday. In commemoration, and in the spirit of self-promotion, here are two pieces I wrote on Peanuts, in the years bookending the end of Peanuts, and Schulz’ death.
I wrote this piece for my column in Iconoclast. I wrote it, and Schulz died the day after I submitted it. The editor asked me if I wanted to revise it in light of schulz' demise, and I declined. I did write an intro, which basically acknowledged Schulz' passing, and noted that Peanuts was my first exposure to the words "sarcasm" and "theology," but that wasn't included in the publication.

++++

After fifty years a lot of people I know just wanted Peanuts to go away, and this year they got their wish. It’s impossible to read Peanuts: A Golden Celebration without mournfully reflecting on Schulz’ recent retirement. A problem with syndication and cultural ubiquity is being taken for granted, which is certainly what happened to Peanuts. That’s why it’s good to have a book like this, to remind how good and how special Schulz’ achievements have been. The tone for the strip is captured in the Sunday strip on the book’s last page, where Snoopy goes to windows barking, only to be rebuffed each time. He retires to the roof of his doghouse, reflecting, “You try to warn them that the world has gone mad, but they won’t listen…” A punch line that’s rueful, and sad, and funny and unfunny all at once.

This strange, sad, melancholy strip is at its heart about facing failure, with the emphasis on facing, not the failure, and that’s why the strangely adult characters are not losers. Sure, Lucy continually violated Charlie Brown’s trust by yanking out the football, but his rationalizations, year after year, are a powerful testament to the vagaries of faith. Or the choice of baseball, as the neighborhood team lost games by insane margins. Baseball in itself is a brilliant choice, as no other team sport offers the opportunity for most of the on-field players to watch in impotent despair as their opponents repeatedly hit the ball out of the park, or straight through Charlie Brown, knocking off all his clothes. But there’s an integrity in continually stepping up to face futility, and Schulz is aware of that. “A real loser,” Schulz writes in one of the many illuminating sidebars, “would stop trying.” I know I’m getting sappy here.

The strips in this book are well chosen, with even the crappy strips becoming worthwhile in the context of the whole. After Schulz hit his stride in the Sixties, the strip lapsed into a two-decade decline featuring innumerable repeated punch lines, Snoopy relatives, and witless encounters with the cat next door. But there was good even in the worst of times, and sub-standard Peanuts was, on the whole, better than just about everything on the comics page.. Luckily, that led to the Nineties. One fan has suggested facing mortality has pushed Schulz to his best work in years. For such an honest, melancholy strip, that’s a natural.

In its last years, we get to see the strip slip out of its formula. Sure, Charlie Brown never did kick his football, but he did kiss a girl, and he won a baseball game. Even Lucy, a Jungian Bitch archetype if there ever was one, developed an almost maternal attitude toward her youngest brother Rerun. Insights like that, as long as Schulz’ surprisingly insightful and self-deprecating commentary, make this A Golden Celebration well worth enjoying. If you think you hate Peanuts, think again.
I wrote this for The Comics Journal's year-end issue in 2001. It never ran, presumeably due to an editorial shake-up. But I did get a kill fee, so maybe the piece isn't totally worthless. There are a few errors, but I'm not going to bother correcting them.

It was originally about Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz, but the outgoing editor asked me to expand it considerably to include Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits, as well as two other books, which, considering what happened to the piece, I'm glad I was never able to track down. ">The Art of Charles M. Schulz was just released in paperback, with 32 new pages.

++++

Pantheon’s new book Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz, is absolutely beautiful and needs to be purchased by every student of comic art in general and every fan of Peanuts in particular. This book is amazing in many, many ways. Some wags on the Internet have been predicting an inevitable Chip Kidd backlash after the recent Jack Cole opus, but it won’t come from this book, which manages an almost perfect meeting of both the material and the aesthetic.

The inside cover sports a sketch and autograph by Schultz that almost looks hand-inscribed. From there, we see marvels including a photo of Schulz’s drawing tools (although preserved exactly as he left them when he stopped drawing, which is sort of creepy), a high school yearbook page starring a ridiculously young-looking Charles Schulz (underneath a girl named Schroeder) and sketchbook pages dating from his stint in the army (which reveal a surprisingly white and crisp style). From there, we move on to the true meat of the book: reproduction of the strips from original art and ancient newspaper clippings, astonishing for their fidelity.

Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz elegantly conveys the experiences of looking at different presentations of the strip. Because the newspaper strips, the original art and the sketchbook drawings were photographed in situ rather than digitally scanned and restored, the reader experiences the works represented on the page as similarly as possible to the experience of seeing them in the original.

The amount of care and fidelity that went into the reproductions is amazing, bringing to mind the disclaimer that appears on compact discs, which warns, “… high resolution also reveals limitations in the master… including noise and other distortions.”

Those distortions, which in this case include dirt, smudges, creases, fingerprints and coffee stains, are part of what makes this book so poignant and so real. It would be a real pleasure and privileges to have the opportunity to page through Sparky’s sketchbooks, to touch his original art and sit in his workspace and eavesdrop as he created. Chip Kidd practically has had that, and has given us the next best thing: a book that replicates the experience.

The strips are not reprinted from the original art are reproduced from vintage strips clipped, mounted and preserved, and photographed as is for this book. It’s just like looking that original collection!

Not having seen any of Schulz’s original art, I’ll have to take it on faith that seeing the strips printed from the originals is JUST LIKE SEEING THE ORIGINALS THEMSELVES. Even if that isn’t the case, there’s a nice tactile pleasure to being able to see the edges from the paste-overs, or the brushstrokes in the blacks.

There’s more to the book than the propeller-head thrill of design and faithful reproduction, though. More than half of the strips date from the Fifties, many being reprinted for the first time. Much of what made Peanuts great in there in embryo. That should itself be a hell of an encouragement, to see these seminal pieces, in which Snoopy walked on four legs, Lucy was a baby and Charlie Brown was a spunky wise-ass. Even then, however, there is still a strip from 1951 about how no one likes him, which isn’t even remotely funny. Shades of the future. And it’s refreshing to see that even a genius like Schulz plagiarized himself within the first few years of the strip. Once Schulz hit his stride, take him decades to swipe wholesale from his best ideas again.

Hopefully, this book’s success will give the keepers of the flame reason to believe the public might indeed be ready and appreciative of the early Peanuts, and give some impetus to an orderly, complete reprinting of the greatest comic strip of the second half of the twentieth century.

To step down for a moment from foaming-at-the-mouth praise, Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz certainly has its flaws. Chip Kidd’s commentary has the air of an informed if hardly expert writer composing from memory, and so, mistakes are made. The biggest error I noticed (I suppose it was the biggest precisely because I did notice) was Kidd’s statement that Schulz wanted Peanuts to be titled Good Ol’ Charlie Brown. In fact, Schulz always preferred the title Li’l Folks. The mistake is particularly nonsensical when one considers the prominence other characters have always had in Peanuts. Also, if I know that, Kidd certainly should have.

More disturbing is much of what Kidd includes as "art" in addition to the strips. Admittedly, it is difficult to evaluate Peanuts overall without acknowledging the massive amount of merchandizing, shilling and selling out that have been part of the Peanuts experience from almost the beginning. But to title a book The Art of Charles M. Schulz is to call attention to the art, first and foremost, and it is hard to see tacky figurines of the more popular characters with spring-set bobbing heads as being "art" in even the broadest, most philistine sense.

The selection and ordering of strips itself has its ups and down. Kidd has arranged the strips in his own idiosyncratic order, roughly chronological in the sense that the early ones are near the beginning and the later ones are near the end, and focusing on the strips as art rather than continuity, which suits the purpose of the book. I suppose leaving this reader wanting more isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it still left this reader wanting more. But with something like 15,000 strips to choose from, it was unavoidable.

That said, I was driven nuts by Kidd’s habit of quoting from strips not reproduced. Anyone who has tried to describe a comic to someone inevitably fails to it justice, and Kidd shouldn’t have tried to do it here. Even that is understandable: there are few strips more quotable than Peanuts. And the strips he quoted might not have been what he was looking for visually. But still, annoying.

That’s just gripes, though.

It is understandable and forgivable in that this is not a work of scholarship. Much like Viking Press’ recent Jorge Luis Borges series, this is a work of appreciation and discovery. The aim is taking joy in exploring long out of print strips, and reveling in the gorgeous reproduction. There are no claims of definiteness or comprehensiveness.

I refer the reader to the foaming-at-the-mouth praise in the first two-thirds of this review, or better yet, to the book itself. The pleasure outweighs the pain by far. The reproduction. The sense of both discovery, and re-discovery. And the strips themselves. There is even a sketch of the little red haired girl.

In an unimaginative segue, this brings us more or less to Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits.

Many of the annoyances in the Peanuts book are present in Jack Cole and Plastic Man. So are many of its strengths, but in this case, they come close to sinking the whole thing.

The book contains multiple pleasures. Art Spiegelman’s New Yorker essay on Cole from 1999 is reprinted, five complete comic book reprints, including four Plastic Man stories, one featuring a solo Woozie Winks, his famous “injury to the eye” story “Murder, Morphine and Me,” and selection of his panel cartooning in Playboy. Strangely, even though Spiegelman points to Betsy and Me as the skeleton key to Cole’s suicide, only a few strips are reprinted. The rest of the book is filled with clippings, collaged and expanded and enlarged.

While this approach worked for Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz, it fails here. One reason for its success in the Schulz book is by virtue of the source material: a clipping of a four panel daily strip can easily contain the whole strip; a clipping of a comic book page will be necessity separate the panels from the others with which it was juxtaposed.

As a result, the focus here is much more on Kidd’s design. Which is too bad. The best way to enjoy comic art is in its context, and we have so little of that here. Continuity and page design are sacrificed in order to call attention to the caricature, grotesques and distortions Cole often committed to the comic book page, as if he were Basil Wolverton.

The story reprints are presented on browned and yellowed paper, the better, apparently, to capture that old feeling of reading the musty originals. There has never been any virtue to the crappy paper, off-register color and shrill melodrama, and Kidd does a disservice to the art form by trying to claim that is so. It is ridiculous to present the cheap ten-cent comics of a half-century ago as art objects, and if the stories themselves are to be viewed as art, they need to hold up on their own. If Cole’s stories, or anyone’s, of interest only as nostalgia, then they are of no interest at all.

The difference, at least between the Cole book and Schulz book, may be the difference between art in general and comic books in general. The overall effect of Kidd’s design of the Peanuts book is personalization. For something as personal and sentimental as Peanuts, a strip that is and has always been a part of the lives of just about everyone on the planet, this is an important thing, and feels like a gift. Peanuts justifies itself though its own depth and quality.

For better or for worse, Jack Cole’s lesser-known work is better served by being evaluated on its own terms, uncluttered by another’s visual verbiage. And it isn’t here. As a result, Jack Cole and Plastic Man: Forms Stretched to Their Limits is not so much a book on or about Jack Cole as it is a book inspired by Jack Cole. Luckily, Cole’s work is strong enough to lend itself to such translation, although the originals are better.

One element in Kidd’s design sense that has been flawless has been his endings. The closing pages of Peanuts: The Art of Charles M. Schulz brings a tear to the eye, and at a crucial point, Forms Stretched to Their Limits provokes a similar reaction.

The reprinted Spiegelman essay is excellent, one of the best prose pieces he has ever written. The piece is informative and engaging, telling the story of Cole’s life, explaining the importance of his work, and illuminating the historical context in which it first appeared. At the end of his essay, near the end of the book, Spiegelman notes, “As he climbed his ladder of success, up from the primal mulch of the comic books, he finally arrived at air that was too thin to breather: Jack Cole, a comics genius, died of growing up,” which Kidd follows with eighteen pages of blown up images clipped from Silver Streak Comics, Plastic Man, CRIME Does Not Pay and other comics, as well as Playboy, and Cole’s own obituary. Spiegelman’s word’s provide, in the end, touching lyrics bridging to an imagistic coda derived from the many themes discernable in Cole’s work. It’s heartbreaking.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

For a moment, I briefly considered announcing a permanent moratorium on Michael Jackson comments. But then I realized, I got nothing else. So, at least until I see Bad Santa, it'll most likely be the King of Pop, or nothing. I'm warning you.
According to Jim Treacher, this article about Michael Jackson has "broken the record for Most Prison-Rape References Per Paragraph of anything published under the Microsoft banner."
There just doesn't seem to be anywhere to go beyond Michael Jackson.

Thursday, November 20, 2003



I know I implied I didn't want to comment on the subject, but I heard a theory about Michael Jackson that bears repeating: when he commits suicide, or dies, or whatever, his face will tranform back into the handsome black man he used to be.
Okay, you've all heard about that Jessica Lynch sex tap making the rounds. Well, you can download it here.
I'm really sick. All this weak. Bleh.
So, I recently competed another art purchase. From my former assistant, Dorothy Rissman, who was clearly destined for greater things than having me throw hot coffee at her. She's really good.



Spiraling Galaxy
Saving me the trouble of both writing about this particular subject, and writing period while I'm sick and dying, here is a guest blog, from my old enemy Jason Probst:



JACKO THE PRIEST

Who knows if Michael Jackson will be exonerated after the police raided his ranch this week and announced they will press child molestation charges against him. Given the money and civil settlement that allowed him to buy off his last complainant in 1993, it’s hard to see him going to jail in this country. He has everything going for him. It’s not like he’s some street junkie getting a public defender. He’s not poor. And he hasn’t been black for several years. If anything, the sympathy factor in favor could be critical.

But the fact that he continued to welcome kids into his bed during regular sleepovers, after that same practice got him into such hot water a decade earlier, you wonder if the guy shouldn’t have just gone into the priesthood.

He loves being alone with kids, garish outfits, and imaginary worlds (dig the “Neverland” references where the alleged incidences occurred). Ditto for priests. They could’ve just transferred him to another parish in that case instead of letting the police get involved.

This shouldn’t be interpreted as some hateful screed about Jackson – he’s probably not going to go to jail, despite the fact that laws have changed since 1993 and the DA’s office, and not alleged victims of child molests, decide whether or not to press charges. High priced lawyers are like high jumpers – they look at how high the bar is, and know immediately if they can get over it or fail in doing so. Jackson will get the best, the kind of people who could get John Wilkes Booth off for shooting Lincoln with a jury of freed slaves.

But just imagine, for a second, that he DID go to prison. What strange things will unfold!

First off, he’s going to be fucked up in the ass, and he’ll be turned into the kind of cock gobbler that would make Rocco Siffredi blush. Sure, he’s got money, but tell that to a guy doing a life sentence seeing that sweet ass sashaying into the shower. It’s almost like fucking a white chick. You can’t buy your way out of that.

Status is accorded in prison to those who take the best-looking inmates into their possession as their bitches. Therefore, the battle over ownership of the world’s most “Dangerous” tush is likely to be fought between very tough people vying for a prize that’s unlike any they’ll ever see again.

In prison, turning Jacko into your bitch is as meaningful as scoring the winning touchdown in the homecoming game, and then running amok down Main Street with a pair of panties aloft after you break the head cheerleader’s cherry.

Prison culture is pretty basic and unvarying, and in Jackson’s case, he fails the first two tests. He’s not very physically intimidating, so he’s likely to get confronted, or “pushed up on” (more on that later), and two, his jail rep as a convicted child molester is the absolute lowest on the social scale for inmates. Confidence men, swindlers, and scam artists are generally regarded as the professional class of criminals, followed by typical violence practicioners like murders, along with common stick up artists. But being a child molester in prison is not cool. It’s like bringing ham to a friend’s briss.

Prisoners 1, Jackson 0.

Secondly, inmates are generally “pushed up on” by inmates of their own race first, as a sort of self-governing dynamic. Black newcomers being solicited for sex or targeted for bullying are generally approached for these by fellow black inmates – the same goes for Hispanic inmates, and to a lesser degree, white ones. The problem lies in classifying Jackson’s racial status.

Black prisoners are generally allowed much more leeway in violating white prisoners than vice-versa, so they might, under prison rules, be allowed to classify him as “white” for terms of leasing him out. It is generally considered bad form to allow white inmates to screw black ones, as it’s a regrettable metaphor for life on the outside – but Jackson’s disappearing pigment and Caucasoid transformation in recent years may result in black inmates shunning him, and therefore increasing the amount of people who will be leased out to. Typically this means a carton of cigarettes, or possibly two considering Jackson’s unique collector’s value. There could, in fact, be a menu of options available for additional price increases, such as making him sing during coitus, or don his famous Glove en route to giving a whimpering handjob in a darkened, roof-a-dripping maintenance shack.

Prisoner 2, Jackson 0.

All said and done, Jackson is facing a tough situation – his unwillingness to even molest children of his own race shows his self-hatred, too. These things won’t be good for him should justice, in its curious forms, decree him a guest of the state. It will be rough justice for man who has alternately billed himself as a “Thriller,” “Bad,” “Dangerous,” and “Invincible,” but will belatedly find out who the real bad guys are.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

So, what does everybody want for Christmas?

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

They're actually encouraging single straight couples to live together and form long-term relationships, with the benefits and social acceptance of marriage? Isn't that even weirder than gay relationships? It's like permananent roommate-hood. People like me who like living alone will be the ones discriminated against.

www.andrewsullivan.com

THEY'RE CHANGING THE AMENDMENT: For some reason, Ramesh Ponnuru's full account of the morass of the proposed "Federal Marriage Amendment" isn't online yet. It's in the coming issue of National Review. I've read it several times now and even someone like me who has studied this in some depth finds it hard going at times. (That's not Ramesh's fault. It's the amendment's.) The bottom line is that my and others' criticisms of the proposed amendment - that it would go further than banning gay marriage and would deny gay citizens any benefits whatever - seem to have struck home. The far right knows that its attempt to disenfranchise gay citizens for ever and to trample states' rights in the process is an extremist non-starter. So this is what they have apparently done. They've added a third clause to the FMA. Here's how Ramesh describes the new far right consensus:

It fell to Chuck Colson, the leader of Prison Fellowship and perhaps the most unifying figure among social conservatives today, to find a solution. On October 15, he succeeded in getting more than 20 groups to come up with a common position. They agreed that the amendment would prohibit gay marriage. It would also prohibit the states and the federal government, including both the courts and the legislatures, from providing any benefits to people that were contingent on their being involved in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. The amendment would, however, allow state legislators to extend the particular privileges of marriage to gay couples -- just not as gay couples. People not in gay relationships would also have to be eligible.

Re-read the penultimate sentence: "The amendment would, however, allow state legislators to extend the particular privileges of marriage to gay couples -- just not as gay couples." Huh? I think this means that the social right is now offering semi-marital benefits to anyone - gay or straight - so long as they're celibate in the relationship or pretend they're straight or act as if they're as intimate as most law partners. I don't know how any sane person could conclude that this isn't ridiculous. How could the government tell who's celibate and who's not, or who's gay and who's straight, or who's doing unmentionable things in their own bedrooms? Is a gay couple supposed to put on some act like they're bachelor buddies in some 1950s movie and the minute they're "presumed" gay, all their rights disappear? Or are we going to have federal videocams in the bedroom?Beats me. And this exquisite piece of precious social maneuvring belongs in the Constitution! So once you've trashed states' rights, deconstructed marriage and alienated gays and their families, what else does the religious right want to accomplish? Except give everyone else in the country a long, hard burst of the giggles?

THE RIGHT VERSUS MARRIAGE: Ramesh elaborates:
Whether the amendment agreed upon by the groups at Colson's meeting would ban "civil unions," then, is not a yes-no question. It would allow civil unions so long as eligibility for them is not based, even in part, on the fact, supposition, or presumption that the people involved are having sex. The amendment would thus make it theoretically possible for gay couples -- and cohabiting straight couples -- to have any of the benefits of marriage, except for governmental recognition of their relationships as equivalent to those of married people.

Huh? This is dizzyingly confusing. And the way in which it empowers government to arbiter the minutiae of people's sex lives should be abhorrent to anyone to the left of the Taliban. What's more, it's a far more direct attack on marriage than anything that has yet been invented by the social right's opponents. The real problem with civil unions or domestic partnerships is that they provide an easy way-station for straight couples other than marriage. They don't demand the same kind of responsibility and commitment that marriage entails, and thus they weaken the important role of marriage in contributing to social stability. That's why I've long proposed cutting through the entire domestic partnership racket (I'd happily abolish all of it) and including gays in marriage, period - as the most conservative measure available. It still is. But the far right's loathing of gay people has forced them to adopt the most radical of the left's proposals - the deconstruction of marriage altogether into a meaningless French-style array of benefits for anyone and anything. Except they've added a new unenforceable twist - that these new benefits are conditioned on celibacy! And that celibacy applies to straights as well as gays. So this amendment will actually now threaten any straight couple in a domestic partnership or civil union - and demand that they stop having sex or have their benefits removed! If I had to come up with an Onion-style parody of the religious right, I couldn't do better than this. I'll leave you with the new improved amendment as it now stands. It is more eloquent than anything I could say about it:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups. Neither the federal government nor any state shall predicate benefits, privileges, rights, or immunities on the existence, recognition, or presumption of sexual conduct or relationships.

This is graffiti on a sacred document. The founders of this country would be horrified.
A note to all wanna-be populist demagogues: insisting you can't get a fair trial makes you sound like an uncredible nut.

Alabama chief justice faces ethics charges

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (CNN) -- Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who opposed federal and state orders to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a public building, faces a judicial panel Wednesday morning in a showdown between the state's top judge and top prosecutor.

More than two months after the 5,300-pound granite monument was removed from the rotunda of Alabama's Judicial Building, Moore will face charges filed by Attorney General Bill Pryor that Moore violated judicial ethics when he refused a federal order to remove the monument.

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary, which will hear the case, could remove Moore from office, suspend him, reprimand him or exonerate him. The hearing may last only one day.

Pryor filed the ethics charges against Moore after the chief justice refused U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson's order to remove the monument.

Thompson ruled the monument was an unconstitutional promotion of religion by government in violation of the First Amendment.

In August, after a protracted legal fight, the Alabama Supreme Court's eight associate justices had the monument moved out of sight. (Full story)

The U.S. Supreme Court on November 3 refused to hear Moore's appeal in the case. (Full story)

The Associated Press reported Monday that Pryor was seeking Moore's removal from the elected office.

In a pretrial brief, Pryor said Moore should be removed because he "intentionally and publicly engaged in misconduct, and because he remains unrepentant for his behavior," the AP reported.

Moore's lawyers said in a brief filed Monday that the chief justice was not guilty of any ethical charges and that the allegations against him were without merit, partly because the federal judge never charged Moore with contempt, the AP reported.

Moore, who was suspended with pay when charged, has expressed doubt that he could receive a fair trial. He said he is concerned that cameras will not be allowed inside the courtroom for most of the trial.

Republicans drop support

Moore's case became a magnet for religious conservatives around the country.

He and his supporters say the Ten Commandments are the foundation of the U.S. legal system and that forbidding the acknowledgment of the Judeo-Christian God violates the First Amendment's guarantee of free exercise of religion. (Moore interview with CNN)

But a lawsuit filed after the monument's installation argued the massive stone marker constituted a government endorsement of Christianity.

The First Amendment reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ... ."

With Thompson threatening to fine the state $5,000 a day for defying his order, Pryor and Gov. Bob Riley refused to support Moore.

Both men are Republicans and self-professed conservative Christians who supported the monument's installation, but they said Moore was bound to obey Thompson's order.

Pryor has been nominated to a seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bush, who has been silent on the issue.

Moore was a circuit judge in Etowah County, northeast of Birmingham, in the late 1990s when he fought a lawsuit seeking to remove a wooden plaque depicting the commandments from his courtroom.

The legal battle propelled him to statewide office in 2000, when the Republican jurist was elected chief justice after campaigning as the "Ten Commandments Judge."

In suspending Moore, the Judicial Inquiry Commission charged Moore with six ethics violations.

Monday, October 20, 2003

For whatever reason, I'm all about laughing at message boards. The Comicon gutters represent culture in its lowest form, suggesting that if language is a virus, it can sometimes, and may be evolutionarilty destined to, manifest in violent or even flesh eating forms. These are the thread titles on the front page at 8:08 Pacific Standard Time on Monday October 20, 2003 (and forgive my shoddy HTML cut and paste):

Red Skull's cigarette holder is just not that impressive

***The OFFICIAL 2003-2004 NFL Thread***

REALLY fucked up Gutters/comics related dream I had

Never try to whip a donut in a parking lot in four-wheel drive

Have you ever noticed

Hey Black people on Comicon...

CAPTION CONTEST

I Miss Y'All

chris & danny quarantine thread

Lamest sockpuppet EVER!!

Everyone says I draw like Dan DeCarlo anyway

Speaker's Corner

Freedom

We've never seen danny and Otto together, have we?

The Cubs aren't in the World Series

It's been a year.

what kind of music does ronan like?

How can you NOT love it?

Cub Fans sucks today

The Haiku of ScooterDoom

I fell into a burning ring of fire

Peter MacDonald!

UP TOP!

anyone else notice how complicated jim treacher lore has gotten lately?

cahleeforrnians


What's up with Half-Penis Anyway?

English paper on Ruth Hall

O danny boy, this is not a pipe calling

He looks just like his father

Hey ScootiePie

Survivor: Comicon

Why won't ScooterDoom tell us where he works?

Battlefield 1942 - Anyone here play?

The final fate of Danny Hellman and Ted Rall.

9-11, We had it coming

move over, serapion

Thread sent to Gutters and I want it closed.

Sam Catalino is "The Big C" at the ORCA Boards.

Ummm.....Frank?

AESTUS, DEFEND YOURSELF

GOD and Religion suck Hitler was righteous

How To Make The Perfect Cup Of Coffee

someone should show this to groth

Why i hate people who hate_ Bush, Harrison, Clinton, and Taft.

Hello

Horoscope and puzzles

Arnold orders off the menu

SEASONAL
ANNOUNCEMENT


Why I hate Danny Hellman

What the hell happened?

If a teenager was caught spraypainting any one of these slogans on the side of a school, he'd probably be suspected of plotting a shooting, and rightfully so. On the internet, its just part of communication. Any one is a short poem of loneliness, misery, despair; adrifting and lost, they mournfully prefigure an epitaph for our entire times and culture.
Wonderful comedy is afoot at the John Byrne message board. It opens with Byrne, a veteran superhero comic creator, devoting a statement to the use of a comic book characters' full name: "What's with the cutesy abbreviations of the character names, people? "Supes"? "Bats"? Do you really feel right using those? Does it really resonate correctly for you when you refer to a super powerful mass murderer as "Mags"? Or a homicidal maniac who would gut you as soon as look at you as "Wolvie"?"

There's plenty more ("Seriously -- would you call Batman "Bats" to his face? Even Superman, who is a much more "approachable" kind of guy -- if he were real, would you actually feel comfortable addressing him as "Supes"?"), the gist of which is that Byrne is absolutely not kidding, documenting a persolality that is chillingly unsettling even by the standards of posters to a comic book message board. If I were an FBI agent interviewing a serial killer for a profile case, and he delivered a monlogue like that, I would leave the meeting sweating and pale, and spend the rest of the week in bed, doubting God and contemplating a career change. Would you trust this man a gun?

Alomst as unsettling is the ensuing debate, with partisans taking the argument seriously on every side imaginable. From "I would consider it the highest compliment if I created a character and the fans started refering to him with a nickname, as long as it was intended as affection and not done with malice" to "That you think calling Batman "Bats" is a term of affection means not one whit to the conversation. I, personally, don't think it's an affectionate term at all. Nor do I think that it's a "fun" term either. Am I taking it too seriously? No. If you think so, more's the poorer for you."

I wonder if social debate was like this before the middle ages, or is speculating that the Earth has two sides and acceptable heresy?


If you're in the Seattle area, I highly recommend heading to Consolidated Works to check out Dazzle Camouflage, a new installation by Jason Puccinelli. He received funding for it from Artist Trust, which is how I first heard of. And Jason is joining us for a fundraising reception at the site, so I've gotten to talk to him a bit while setting that up.

The basic idea is that he's constructed museum dioramas, like you would see representing Stone Age culture or something like that, and combined them with a fashion shoot. In this case, the dioramas are representations of some questionable things, such as in the image up top. Other scenes are a slaughterhouse, a missile silo and a stock exchange. Opening night, he had fashion models pose and cavort in the scenes, covered in blodd, stabbing pig carcasses, and also audience members were selected to pose as well. I thought the fashion models weakened the effect, actually, because the exhibit works better as audience participation, the better to implicate the audience as they interact in the settings. The performed fashion shoots distanced the audience. It wasn't them.

There won't be the full on fashion shoot spectacle in the regular exibit, but a photographer will be on duty Thursdays thru Sundays 7:00pm – 8:00pm to take pictures of visitors to the installation. Which means you get a photo as a souvenier. It's supposed to be fun, and kind of disturbing that it is fun.

It's also the cover of last week's Stranger:



Thursday, October 16, 2003

I have returned from vacation. I was considering retirement, but I found something out today that demanded my attention -- and the world's.

Jimmie Walker writes a column for Jewish World Review.



Today he writes about Rush Limbaugh.

That is all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Friday, September 12, 2003



In a world gone mad with grief and ecstacy, there is at least some good news. In April 2004 Fantagraphics Books will publish the first of 25 volumes of the Complete Peanuts. All fifty years. All fifty years.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Riefenstahl dies at 101; tainted by link to Hitler

September 10, 2003

BY ROGER EBERT Sun-Times Movie Critic

Leni Riefenstahl, who did more than any other artist to shape the image of the Third Reich, died in her sleep Monday night in Berlin. She was 101. Although her 1934 documentary "Triumph of the Will" was the most dramatic and influential visual treatment of Nazism and the cult of Adolf Hitler, she maintained until the end that she was not a Nazi.

Not everyone agreed. She was declared to be a Nazi sympathizer by an Allied tribunal after World War II and essentially disappeared from public view for 20 years. Then she attempted to rehabilitate her image through interviews, film festival appearances, a 1973 book of photographs about a threatened African tribe, a 1992 autobiography, and her appearance in an extraordinary 1993 documentary by Ray Muller named "The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl."

I wrote in my review of that film: "If Leni Riefenstahl had done nothing notable before the age of 60, what a wonderful life we would say she had lived since then." At that time in her early 90s, she was the world's oldest active scuba diver, and in the documentary, at the end of a day of diving, we see her walk down a pier with two men -- the captain, and Horst, her younger companion and cinematographer -- and "the body language says everything. The two men walk ahead, carrying gear, engaged in conversation. She walks behind them, alone, carrying her own gear and oxygen tank. They don't lend her a hand, or offer to carry the tank for her, and what this says is that, at 91, they do not think she needs special consideration. She's one of the guys."

But being in great shape at a very old age, while admirable, does not erase the stain of her association with the Nazi movement. As Hitler began his rise to power, Miss Riefenstahl was already a famous German actress, best known for a group of "mountain films" in which idealized Nordic characters posed heroically against the sky. In "The Blue Light" (1932), which I once saw at the Telluride Film Festival, she is accused of being a witch, but finds truth and deliverance in the secret of a blue light which shines from a cave high on a mountainside.

By 1934, she was a favorite of the Nazis, and was chosen by Goebbels, the propaganda minister, to film the party's rally at Nuremberg. Given many cameras and unlimited film, she also benefitted because much of the rally was deliberately staged with the film in mind. The result, "Triumph of the Will," is one of the most important documentaries ever made, and by general consent one of the best: important at the time for the way it painted Hitler and his followers as idealized supermen, important now because it helps explain how Nazism was not only a political movement but an exercise in mass hypnotism drawing on fetishistic imagery.

Miss Riefenstahl's other important documentary was "Olympia" (1938), a record of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which took place on the eve of Hitler's war.

Again she had unlimited resources at her disposal to create heroic images of muscular athletes conquering space and time. The buried message praised the cult of the body, particularly the Nordic body, and it was a considerable embarrassment for Hitler that the African-American runner Jesse Owens won four gold medals and set three Olympic records at the Berlin Games.

There was one other important film directed by Miss Riefenstahl, the little-known "Lowlands," partly filmed in Spain in 1944 and using gypsies in a parable that she said was intended as a criticism of Nazism. Post-production was interrupted by the end of the war, and the movie was not finished until 1954. Only last year Miss Riefenstahl was sued by gypsy death camp survivors who said she used them as slave labor; they objected to her statement that none of her gypsy extras died, since some did, in Auschwitz.

After her public reappearance in the 1960s, Miss Riefenstahl often defended herself against charges that she was a Nazi. She was an artist, she said, interested in film, not politics. In the 1993 documentary, she is questioned strenuously about her association with the party, and we see that she has rehearsed over the years an elaborate explanation and justification for her behavior. There is no anti-Semitism in her films, she points out. She did not know until after the war about the Holocaust. She was naive, unsophisticated, detached from Nazi party officials with the exception of Hitler, her friend -- but not a close friend, she insists.

But the very absence of anti-Semitism in "Triumph of the Will" looks like a calculation; excluding a central motif of Hitler's speeches must have been deliberate, to make the film go down more easily as propaganda. Nor could a film professional working in Berlin have been unaware of the disappearance of all of the Jews in the movie industry.

In the 1993 film, Miss Riefenstahl is seen visiting the site of the 1936 Olympiad with the surviving members of her film crew. They talk about some of their famous shots -- from aerial techniques to the idea of digging a hole for the camera, so that athletes could loom over the audience. We sense Miss Riefenstahl's true passion for filmmaking. But there are candid moments, when she is not aware of the camera, when she shares quiet little asides with her old comrades, which, while not damning, subtly suggest a dimension she is not willing to have seen.

The impression remains that if Hitler had won, Leni Riefenstahl would not have been so quick to distance herself from him. Her postwar moral defense is based on technicalities. Understandably, she was not eager to face conviction or punishment as a war criminal. But ironically, if she had confessed and renounced her earlier ideas, she might have had a more active career. It was her unconvincing, elusive self-defense that continued to damn her.

Copyright © Chicago Sun-Times Inc.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Leni Riefenstahl was an amazing woman. I'm amazed she died. I figured she would outlive me. Her autobiography is an amazing document. In it, she describes Josef Goebbels crawling on his hands and knees in her living room, begging her to sleep with him. Amazing stuff.

German Film Director, Leni Riefenstahl, Dies at 101

By Bart Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 9, 2003; 1:40 PM

Leni Riefenstahl, 101, the German film director and protege of Adolph Hitler whose historic documentaries about the 1934 Nazi party congress at Nuremberg and the Berlin Olympics of 1936 set benchmark standards for cinematic imagery and political propaganda that endured through the 20th century, died Sept. 8 at her home in Pöcking, near Munich. No cause of death was reported.

Ms. Riefenstahl was a personal favorite of Hitler's, and one of the few remaining friends of the Nazi dictator still alive. Under his sponsorship, she had wide authority and unlimited access in her work, and her career flourished. But it collapsed with the fall of the Third Reich and the carnage of World War II, and Ms. Riefenstahl never rid herself of the Nazi stigma.

As a filmmaker and artist, she had an eye for detail and a talent for editing that evoked the hypnotic spectacle of the massed Nazi legions, the raw charisma of the German fuhrer and the mesmerizing drama and majesty of Olympic competition with a force and power not seen before in the film medium.

During the 1930s, Ms. Riefenstahl was widely rumored at the highest levels of the Nazi party and throughout Germany to have been Hitler's mistress. In the United States, the Saturday Evening Post described her as a "Nazi pinup girl," and the Detroit News, in a 1937 story, called her "the woman behind Hitler."

Ms. Riefenstahl always insisted the rumors were baseless, and investigators for the Allied Powers after the war found no evidence to suggest she may have had a romantic or sexual liaison with the fuhrer.

Taken into custody by military authorities following the Nazi surrender in 1945, Ms. Riefenstahl was eventually released without charges. But it was years later before she obtained a work permit, and the films she made under Hitler would become a permanent reminder that she had served a regime that produced concentration camps, gas chambers, the Gestapo and genocide of European Jews. She never regained her pre-war professional standing as a director and actress.

Late in her life, Ms. Riefenstahl would downplay her relationship with the fuhrer. "Hitler did not play such an important role in my life," she said.

But she did admit being "dazzled" by him. "I had never met anyone with such power of persuasion," she said, "able to influence other minds so effectively."

Ms. Riefenstahl had been a glamorous actress and film director who starred in her own adventure movies before Hitler selected her to make the film of the 1934 Nazi congress. As one of Germany's leading movie stars, she caught the fuhrer's eye with her performance in "Blue Light" (1932), which she co-directed, about a courageous village girl who scales a treacherous mountain.

"Your 'Blue Light' proved that you can do it," Hitler told her when she voiced doubts over her ability to produce the documentary he wanted about the Nazi congress. He would later describe the finished product, which came to be known as "Triumph of the Will," as "a totally unique and incomparable glorification of the power and beauty of our Movement."

For the filming of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Ms. Riefenstahl was officially working for the International Olympic Committee, but her efforts were surreptitiously financed and later exploited by the Nazi regime. She would produce an epic three-hour documentary entitled "Olympia," that became a prototype for much of sports television decades later.

In that picture she pioneered such techniques as aerial photography, underwater pictures of swimming and diving events and the placing of cameras on tracks to move with runners in a race.

She perfected the technique of dramatizing athletic contests by personalizing the athletes. With such details as a close up of the vein throbbing in American sprinter Jesse Owens' forehead and the glint of confidence on his face as he prepared for the final in the 100-meter dash, Ms. Riefenstahl made the Games come alive.

It took her 18 months to edit the 250 miles of film footage into a single documentary, which had its premiere showing in Berlin on April 20, 1938, Hitler's birthday. To no one's surprise, "Olympia" won Germany's State Prize as the best film of 1938, but it also won prestigious awards in France, Sweden and at the Venice Film Festival. Soviet dictator Josef Stalin sent a congratulatory note praising the film.

In its May 1938 issue, the German Film magazine declared "Olympia," to be "one of the greatest works of art that the German film has produced up to now -- filled with the spirit that we sense not only as the spirit of the Games but also the spirit of the German reality of today. . . . It is a result of National Socialism, which is penetrating the total life of the nation. Only in the ideological structure of National Socialism could this great documentary film have come into being as an artistic achievement."

Helene Berta Amalie Riefenstahl was born in Berlin, where her father was a prosperous manufacturer of plumbing and heating equipment. As a child she aspired to be a dancer, but a knee injury cut this career short and she turned to acting.

Dark haired, brown eyed, and athletic, she radiated confidence and a cool Teutonic sensuality. In seven films during the 1920s and early 1930s, she displayed a lively and spirited alpine glamour as she climbed mountains barefoot, survived avalanches and traversed treacherous crevasses on the flimsiest of ladders, often in films by her protege, director Arnold Fanck.

In May 1932, after having attended a Nazi party rally where Hitler spoke at the Berlin Sports Palace, Ms. Riefenstahl sent the fuhrer a letter. "I was so impressed by you and the enthusiasm of the spectators that I would like to meet you personally," she wrote.

A few days later she received a telephone call from one of Hitler's aides inviting her to meet the Nazi leader at Horumersiel, a small fishing village on Germany's North Sea coast. She accepted, and the following day she spent several hours with Hitler, walking along the seashore and conversing on subjects ranging from art and architecture to Hitler's politics. "I feel that I have been called to save Germany -- I cannot and must not refuse this calling," she recalled him as saying.

At one point, she recalled in her 1987 autobiography, "Leni Riefenstahl: a Memoir," Hitler "halted, looked at me, slowly put his arms around me and drew me to him, . . . but when he noticed my lack of response he instantly let me go and turned away. Then I saw him raise his hands beseechingly: 'How can I love a woman until I have completed my task?' "

They met periodically over the next several years. At one point Hitler offered to place her in charge of all German cinema, which she declined. But she agreed to his request to film the 1934 Nazi congress. Preparations for filming this spectacle began months before the rally itself, which took place from Sept. 4 to 10, 1934, and they involved elaborate, stage-managed coordination between party organizers and the 36-member film crew.

The result of these efforts was an amalgam of exquisitely interwoven and highly emotional images building up to a crescendo of frenzied German nationalism and mass hero worship for the fuhrer. Time magazine later called it "newsreel raised to romantic myth."

Especially powerful was a sequence in which Hitler walked down an enormous corridor of massed party members to lay a commemorative wreath at the grave of a Nazi martyr.

The American film director Frank Capra found the fanaticism of "Triumph of the Will," so compelling that he used copious footage from the documentary to illustrate the nature of the enemy in "Why We Fight," the inspirational films he made for the U.S. armed forces.

To film the Berlin Games, Ms. Riefenstahl directed dozens of camera crews -- 60 were assigned to the opening ceremonies alone -- and pictures were taken from helium balloons and the saddles of horseback riders.

In editing the films, she perfected such artistic techniques -- copied later by U.S. film directors -- as superimposing the image of the Olympic Stadium getting nearer over the running feet of a marathon racer and the cinematic silhouettes of the Olympic divers soaring and tumbling as if in defiance of the laws of gravity.

Late in 1938, Ms. Riefenstahl toured the United States with the film, which drew grudging admiration. She herself received a cold shoulder from the media and the Hollywood film industry. At the outset of World War II, she followed the Wehrmacht into Poland, but she soon decided against making war films.

She did some desultory work during the war on a film version of the Eugen d'Albert opera "Tiefland," but the picture was not finished until the early 1950s and it was withdrawn from circulation after unsuccessful openings in Germany and Austria. Several other film projects during the 1950s never materialized. For the Munich Olympics of 1972 she was a photographic adviser.

For most of the half century since the end of the war, she attracted little notice from the media, although she did return to the public spotlight with the publication of her memoirs and the U.S. release of a documentary film about her, Ray Muller's "The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl" (1993).

She also learned to scuba dive at age 71 to take photographs for her book "Coral Gardens," which was hailed for its stunning beauty.

She continued diving well into her 90s. In 2002, she released in conjunction with her 100th birthday a 45-minute documentary, "Underwater Impressions," about her 30 years of exploring the coast of Indonesia.

Hilmar Hofmann, director of the Goethe Institute, was quoted as saying, "It exceeds even the talents of the veteran French underwater film-maker Jacques-Yves Cousteau."

She was married once, in 1944 to Peter Jacob, an officer in the Wehrmacht. They were divorced in 1946.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Thursday, August 28, 2003

For no reason whatsover, I did a Google search for "Unrequited love." The first hit was "Unrequited Love: Agony and Rapture", which seems to originate from the Physics department of Ohio State University, which doesn't surprise me for some reason.

Where was I going with this?

Oh, yeah. One of the funny "tips" is during the page on Communication, where they suggest memorizing every personal detail possible, even while not trying to avoid obvious pitfalss: "As you sit with them listening to that smooth, calming voice, you are likely to become entranced by the movement of their sweet, beckoning lips, the subtle variations in the color of their hair, and the texture of the skin on their hands." So pay attention. That's the lesson.

It seems to be a guide for making unrequited love the absolute apotheosis of the concept. Again, no idea why I'd be looking that up in the first place.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Narrowly beating out Hollywood is Calling, the most depressing site I've seen this week has to be Star Search Casting. For $9.95 a month, or $99.95 a year, aspirants, wannabes and never-will-bes can post a talent profile to be viewed by Casting Directors and Agents. It's heartbreaking to see these amateur photo galleries, wishful age ranges and deluded weight estimates posted in the hopes of "being discovered." If you want to go and laugh, spare yourself the biographies, which read like something out of Robert Altman's Nashville. I felt really bad for the girl who said she'd been living in California for two weeks, having just arrived from Indiana, and really, really looked forward to being a star. At least, I felt bad for clicking on her attractive picture to laughs at her dreams. She should start by saving her money.

***

UPDATE: Well, I've sinced browsed even more of the site, and noticed that in addition to the aformentioned aspirants, there also seems to be a handful of models who have appeared in the likes of PLAYBOY and TRUCK DRIVER MAGAZINE. I wonder if that's even more depressing, that even with a "big break" like Playboy behind them, they still have to resort to a website like this.
With the death of Wesley Willis, the world is now poorer one intimidating psychopath. I first heard that madman's music when I worked at Fantagraphics Books in 1996. One of my co-workers, a demure young woman, had an inexplicable and possibly satanic love for Willis' ouvre. This song in particular stands out in my mind:

I Wupped Batman's Ass (Rock Power, Rush Hour and Greatest Hits)

Batman got on my nerves
He was running me amok
He ridiculed me calling me a bum

I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass

Batman thought he was bad
He was a fucking asshole in the first place
He got knocked to the floor

I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass

Batman beat the hell out of me and knocked me to the floor
I got back up and knocked him to the floor
He was being such a jackoff

I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass
I wupped Batman's ass

Wheaties, breakfast of champions

Thursday, August 21, 2003

My favorites are cave bitch, ice mutant, and of course, White Devil.

List of ethnic slurs
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The following is a list of ethnic slurs that are, or have been, used to refer to members of a given ethnicity (or, in some cases, nationality or religion) in a derogatory or pejorative manner. The term is listed, followed by its primary user(s) and a definition.

Not all terms on the list are considered equally offensive. Many of these terms are used more widely than would be imagined based on their "definition", for example, Chink can be used to refer to any Asian person. The key here is that the person using the slur cares so little about the target, that the person's actual background is irrelevant. The motivation for using an ethnic slur is often racism.

See also: Term of disparagement

Ab-bo - Australia, Australian aboriginal
A-rab - U.S., someone of Middle-eastern descent (from Arab)
barbarian - Ancient Roman, a non-Roman European (especially the Germanic tribes)
boat niggers - U.S., Cuban people
bolillo - Mexico, white people (bolillo is a white bread roll).
boong - Australia, Australian aboriginal
boy - Southern U.S. whites, a black man
beaner / bean-eater - Western U.S., someone of Mexican descent
camel jockey - U.S., someone of Middle-eastern descent
Canuck - U.S., a Canadian national
caphead - Australia, a Jewish man
Carlton - U.S., refers to Carlton Banks: a black sitcom character that "acted white".
cave bitch - U.S., from an Ice Cube song about white women
charlie - U.S., a Vietnamese person (shortened from radio code for the Vietcong (V.C.): "Victor Charlie")
ching chong - Australia, someone of Chinese descent
Chink - U.S./U.K., someone of Chinese descent
chocolate drop - U.K., a black person
chogee - Australia, someone of Asian descent
chongo/chango - (also "mono") U.S. hispanics, a black person ("chongo/chango" is Spanish for "monkey")
Christ-killer - used in some Christian cultures, a Jewish person
clog - used in some cultures, a Dutch person (from their supposed wearing of clogs)
Cochise - U.S., a Native American
coon - U.S./U.K./Australia, a black person
cockroach - U.S., a Mexican immigrant
cracker - U.S., a white person from the Southern U.S.
dago - U.S., someone of Italian descent (originally applied to Spanish, Portuguese or Italian sailors)
darkie - various, someone with dark-colored skin (not used for Hispanics or Asians)
Dot-head - U.S., someone of southeast Asian descent (from the Hindu practice of wearing bindis)
double Dutch / Dutch courage - U.S./U.K., inferior attributes for Dutch people
eggplant - North-eastern U.S., a black person
esse - U.S., someone of Hispanic descent
Eurotrash - U.S./U.K., a continental European national
Eyetie / Eye-talian - U.S., someone of Italian descent
fob - U.S., a recent Asian immigrant (from Fresh Off the Boat)
flip - U.S., someone of Filipino descent
frog - U.S./U.K., a French national
gaijin - Japan, any non-Japanese person
gavacho - Mexico, a white person
ghost - China (Qing Dynasty), a foreigner, esp. a Japanese person (white people were "ghosts from the seas")
gin - Australia - an Aboriginal woman
goat roper - U.S. southwest, white people (mostly hicks and/or suburban cowboys)
gook - U.S. since Vietnam War, a Vietnamese person
goomba - various groups, An Italian person
goy - Hebrew speakers, a non-Jewish person
gringo - Latin America and Spain: U.S. national. For brazilians, any foreigner.
gubba - australia - Aboriginal term for white people.
guinea - U.S., someone of Italian descent
habib - U.S., someone of Southeast Asian descent
haole - native Hawaiians, a non-native white person
heeb - U.S., a Jewish person (Short for Hebrew)
hillbilly - U.S., a rural white person, esp. one from Appalachia
honger - North America, a person from Hong Kong
honky - U.S. blacks, a white person
Hymie - U.S. blacks, a Jewish person, especially from New York City ("Hymietown")
hun - Allies in WWI, a German soldier; also Irish nationalists, a British nationalist
ice mutant - black supremacists, a white person
Jap - U.S./U.K., someone of Japanese descent
JAP - U.S., Jewish women (Jewish American Princess)
Jerry - U.S., a German national
jungle bunny - U.S. whites, a black person
kaffir - South African whites, a black person
kaffir - Arabic word used in the Islamic world, a non-believer, atheist, or pagan. Jews and Christians would not be considered a kaffir. The word does not count as a slur, it has the same negative connotations as a non believer
kike - U.S., a Jewish person
Kraut - U.S./U.K., a German national
limey - U.S., a British national - British sailors ate limes to prevent scurvy
long nose - China, a person of European descent
mayate - U.S. hispanics, Spanish equivalent of nigger
mick - U.S., a person of Irish descent (from the common surname form McXxxx)
moon cricket - U.S., a black person
mud person - U.S. white supremacists, a non-white person (usually seen in the plural form as mud people)
Nazi - North America, Europe, etc, a German person
Newfy - Canada, a person from Newfoundland
nigger - U.S./U.K., a black person (also "niggra", southern U.S. pronunciation)
night fighter - U.S., a black person
nig-nog - U.K., a black person
Nip - U.S., someone of Japanese descent (from Nippon, an Anglicization of the Japanese name for Japan)
oreo - U.S., someone of black and white descent (or a black person who "acts white" - see Carlton)
oven dodger - Australia, a Jewish person
Papist - Protestants, a Roman Catholic person
Pakeha - (Maori) A new Zealander of European descent
Paki - U.K., a Pakistani (or other South Asian)
Polack - U.S., a person of Polish descent
pom - Australia/New Zealand/South Africa, a British national
porch monkey - U.S., a black person
prairie nigger - U.S., a Native American
raghead - U.S., someone of Middle-eastern descent
raton - France, a North African Muslim
redneck - U.S., a rural white person
roast beef - France, a British person
rock spider - English-speaking South Africans, an Afrikaner (although in Australia, rock spider means child molester)
Round eye - Asia, a white person
Round hair - U.S., a black person
Russki - U.S., a Russian national
sambo - U.K., a black person
sand Nazi - U.S., someone of Middle-eastern descent
sand nigger - U.S., someone of Middle-eastern descent
sheister/shyster - U.S., a Jew
shit-kicker - U.S., a white person from the southwest (ex: Oklahoma)
Skunk - U.S., someone of Middle-eastern descent
Skip - Australian - a white Australian of British descent - from "Skippy the Bush Kangaroo"
slant-eye - U.S., a person of Asian descent
slapface - Australia, a person of Asian descent
slope - a person of Asian descent
spic - U.S., a person of Hispanic descent
spook - U.S. whites, a black person
spear-chucker - U.S. whites, a black person
surrender monkeys - U.S., a French person
swamp honky - U.S. southwest, similar to white trash - white residents around the Louisiana/Texas border (also "swamp trash")
terrier - U.S., an Irish laborer
Tonto - U.S., a Native American (refers to the sidekick on "The Lone Ranger")
towelhead - U.S., someone of Middle-eastern descent
trailer trash - U.S., a rural white person living in a trailer park; cf. white trash
Uncle Tom - U.S. blacks, term for someone who kisses up to white people; a "sellout" (taken from Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin")
wetback - U.S., an illegal Mexican immigrant
White Devil - U.S., (originated with Nation of Islam) a white person
whitey - U.S., a white person
white trash, also poor white trash - U.S., a rural white person
wog - U.K., a dark-skinned national of a Colonial British colony; also Australia, a Southern-European person (or any foreigner)
wop - U.S., an Italian immigrant (folk etymology gives the origin as: WithOut Passport)
Yank/Yankee - Southern U.S., a person from the North-Eastern USA; also non-USA, an American national
Now that I'm starting to pay attention to the California side-show, it's really entertaining. LA Times has pictures and bios of all 200 candidates, as well as links to their web sites.

I'm torn who to support.

Democrat Georgy Russell, is so cute and idealistic. And actually seems to have a brain. She'll go far, although with her current visibility, I'll have to stand in line for a date until her notoriety dies down.



Porn actress Mary Carey, running as an independent, has an innovative "porn for pistols" program and promises live web cams in the governors mansion, which are just the kind of forward-thinking public policy citizens of all states need. She's also offering "dates" in exchange for a $5,000 campaign contribution. Out of curiosity, just how many porn actresses are there, anyway?



Oh, here's Gary Coleman's official campaign photo:



Saturday, August 16, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq - "Let them taste what we have tasted," said Ali Abdul Hussein, selling "Keep Cold" brand ice chests on a sidewalk. "Let them sit outside drinking tea and smoking cigarettes waiting for the power to come back, just like the Iraqis."

Friday, August 15, 2003

And meanwhile in Seattle, civic leaders wonder why the Northwest hasn't experienced a blackout, seeing as how we're a major city with a port and three pro sports teams. They don't understand that if aliens invade, they'd probably ignore Washington. I can see it now: "After seven years, Western Washington residents continue to hold their breaths in fear, waiting for our extraterrestrial overlords to attack this major metropolitan area with their death rays and killer robots."

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Friday, August 01, 2003

Holy shit, Christopher Hitchens has just set a new standard for attack obituaries. His commentary on Bob Hope is just plain mean. Beginning with the obvious and accurate premise that Bob Hope wasn't funny, he engages in the sort of thrilling desecration I thought he only reserved for the unsavnory likes of Mother Theresa or Princess Di. Every word is dead accurate, and he even mentioned something I didn't even realize I was thinking: "I have met more than one veteran who says that those USO concerts were the last straw." Jesus, the one ray of er, hope was those USO tours. If the soldiers hated it, then the man's life was worthless, wasn't it? I guess I should have realized: the man was no Playboy bunny.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

As a comic book nerd, a former pro and a current critic, naturally I paid attention to reports of a new Batman short that premiered at the San Diego Comicon. The short has been getting props from all over the place, as an example of how a Batman movie ought to be.





Personally, I thought the thing was retarded. The acting is of short film quality, which is to say, it is very bad. Starting out at a pretentious fanboy jerk-off, with fetishized shots of Batman fastening is boots (with Velcro, no less) and chasing the Joker, it gets even worse with the introduction of that fucked up alien from Alien and a bunch of those fucked-up aliens from Predator. This is all at the service of some weird fascination genre fans have with crossovers. It is inept and pretentious at the same time, and manages to not have a single original idea. And it was shot on 35 mm film, which means someone like Wes Anderson could have made an amazing feature with the same budget.

To its credit, the film's production values are first rate (those look like real Alien and Predator costumes), albeit at the service of something just plain awful.

So why is everyone (well, all 100,000 comic book fans) so excited? Apparently, for comics fans the previous Batman films have acquired the sting of a childhood memory of being molested by an ugly relative, just like the television show (I stole this simile from The Comics Journal). Comic fans believe Batman deserves better than the admittedly terrible Batman and Robin, or even the previous Tim Burton "efforts," to use the term loosely.

Honestly, who cares? Okay, admittedly I'm writing about it, but we're talking about a man who responds to the murder of his parents by dressing up as a winged possum in vinyl and beating up people. A banal and primitive concept, meant to appeal to undeveloped minds, something the character has excelled at for sixty years. Batman is an idiotic character, and every appearance, every film, every television show and cartoon produces a net deficit in the free marketplace of ideas. Batman doesn't deserve better, because the mediocre doesn't deserve better.

Anyway, you can download the thing here. Be prepared to be blown away. If you're a complete fucking geek. Fuck you and your family.