Friday, December 28, 2007

Zeitgeist! Standortgeist! Kunst, kinder!

I'm basically an athiest. Technically, I guess I would be defined as an agnostic since I don't claim to know whether or not god exists. But agnosticism is like a slippery tight wire - you always end up falling to one side or the other. You can claim to be in total disinclination to belief one way or the other, but eventually, in real life practice, you find yourself tending towards belief or non-belief. So, I'm a non-believer, an athiest basically. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and all that. All a bunch of neurons firing or not firing, creating a highly developed collective consciousness. I don't know but that seems to be the case. And yet, sometimes coincidences, connections, serendipities, etc, give me pause. They float me into thinking that something's pulling puppet strings around me. But mostly they make me appreciate the poetic randomness of the world, rather than believing in some otherness operating in mysterious ways. Sometimes you are just in the right time and the right place for something.

For example, I've been working on my graphic novel, Business Casual Stag Devil Death Boy for quite a while now. There are probably a lot of people in the world working on graphic novels right now, but I don't know any of them. I have friends who read graphic novels and who appreciate the nature of the medium, but it's not like there are people I hang out with who have been going through this particular interesting/pain-in-the-ass process over the past [___] year[s]. It's taking forever and while I'm probably 95% through the whole process, that 5% is daunting. Then on Monday, I went back to Pittsfield for Christmas and my mother mentioned that they were having some sort of exhibit on graphic novels at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, 25 minutes from where I grew up. I borrowed the car and 25 minutes later I was looking at the only museum exhibition of the art form of the graphic novel that I'd ever seen. (There was a comic book museum in Northampton 45 minutes away, back in the 90's, but that wasn't specifically about the graphic novel, as opposed to the comic book. This was about graphic novels, not just superhero comics. I don't make the distinction to make a qualitative statement; they're just different forms in scope and content.) There - out of all the places in the world, near the house I grew up in. Then - out of all the times in my life, when I'm embroiled in the middle of just such a project. I just found it odd. Like I was smack dab in the middle of the zeitgeist (defining spirit/mood of a time) and standortgeist (defining spirit/mood of a place). Like I was meant to grow up there and to cycle back there, then, now. Random or not, the whole experience has pumped me up for the final five%.

Random. Paper salesman Papa VTK was relocated from Chicago to Pittsfield in 1974 or 5, so we ended up a few minutes away from the home of one of the greatest artists (not just "illustrators") of the twentieth century - Norman Rockwell. In his life, Norman Rockwell was ridiculously prolific in making some of the best portraiture work of his generation, of his century, in the conversation of of all time. Yet he received no respect from the despicable "Art World". Oh those were very nice illustrations, technically impressive; he's a fine draftsman. But it's not cubist and it's not dada and it's not surrealism and it's not futurism and it's not abstract expressionism and it's not minimalism. So, it's not something that should be thought of as art in the modern era. It's been done, so it's irrelevant. In recent years, the Art World has been so charitable as to recognize the skill of Rockwell, and has begun to recognize the skill involved in the artform of the graphic novel. But comic artists and illustrators have been disrespected similarly to Rockwell for decades, which is certainly why the museum chose to do this exhibition. But there I go railing against the art establishment (fuck you) again. Sorry.

The point is that if you are within striking distance of Western Mass (and Stockbridge is next to Lee, which is an exit off the Mass Pike) you should check out this exhibit and the rest of the museum. It has lots of original drawings, sketches, and gives great insight into this particular creative process. It features the works of R Crumb, Dave Sim, Frank Miller, fellow Progressive collaborator Sue Coe, and to my surprise and excitement the work of my favorite graphic novel artist, Marc Hempel, who did the artwork for The Kindly Ones, the best illustrated of Neil Gaimon's Sandman series, in my occasionally humble opinion. (that's his work to the left and up at the top)

Kunst, kinder! Art, children!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wii = Weeeeeeeeeee!

The Practical Slacker got an early XMas present yesterday: The Nintendo Wii!!

(sorry about the angle of the video - couldn't figure out how to change that)

I got a good laugh at the whole thing, until he gave me a run. And I'm here to tell you that this thing is addictive. We played a game of bowling and then nine holes of golf, wasting a solid 2 to 3 hours of my time. Good fun though. Here's my sopranosesque gangster character chipping from the edge of the sandtrap:

Here's PS's mustachioed asian character putting:

VTK Italiano was a stroke down going into the last hole, but chipped in from the rough for the win. Forza VTK Italiano!

Friday, December 14, 2007

OO US Presidents, 01 -45

Have you ever noticed that for all but 7 years between 1901 and 1945 the President of the United States had consecutive o's in his name? Check it out. Think about it.

1901 - 1909
Teddy ROOsevelt

1909 - 1913
William Taft (4 years without an oo - Taft finished third in his bid for re-election)

1913 - 1921
WOOdrow Wilson

1921 - 1923
Warren G. Harding (3 years without an oo - Harding dies in office (without an oo, unless you count "doom"))

1923 - 1929
Calvin COOlidge

1929 - 1933
Herbert HOOver

1933 - 1945
Franklin Delano ROOsevelt

Alls I'm saying is that's a lot of oo's with a whole lot of power in a concentrated period of time. 38 out of 45 years. Double zeros anyone? Draw your own conclusions.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Top Ten Pyrrhic Victories of All Time

10.a. Michael Jackson - becomes a child star, a teen star, and eventually the King of Pop. The fame fucks up his life/head beyond repair. He's now a pathetic, tragic mess.

10.b. Britney Spears - becomes a child star, a teen star, and eventually the Princess of Pop. The fame fucks up her life/head beyond repair. She's now a pathetic, tragic mess.

9. Apollo Creed defeats Rocky - Creed beats the scrappy Italian Stallion in a bout that is supposed to make him out to be the good guy giving the little guy a shot at the title on the country's bicentennial. The world turns against him, baiting him into giving Rocky a rematch. Rocky beats him and takes his heavyweight champ title.

8. Barry Bonds - Talk about topical. This very day, baseball's most prolific slugger was arraigned in a federal court on perjury and obstruction of justice charges - charges that stem from his continued cover-up of the fact that he used steroids - steroids which he used in the late 90s early 00s to help him compete with the other juiced up sluggers. Once on the juice, he went on an unprecedented home run tear and now holds the Major League records for most homers in a year and in a career. He's # 1, but it may very well end up landing him in jail and out of the Hall of Fame, and possibly the record books that he was initially trying to get in. Pyrrhus wants to buy you a drink, Barry. He's down there at the end of the bar.

7. Detective David Mills - Brad Pitt's character in Se7en catches the bad guy, solves the mystery, only to be baited into gaining his vengeance, thus falling into the bad guy's trap, and consigning himself to life in prison.

6. Kurt Cobain - wins fame, glory, mainstream success, and riches - all of which contribute to his drug addiction, his feeling like a sell-out, internal angst, etc, all of which surely factored prominently in his suicide.

Apparently, he missed the comfort of being sad.

5. Len Bias - the dreaded double pyrrhic victory. For the non-sports fan VTK readers, here's the story: In 1986, the World Champion Boston Celtics (considered to be one of the 3 or 4 best basketball teams of all time), lucked out and came in second in the draft lottery, then duped the team that won the lottery into picking another player. The Celtics then selected the best player in the draft, Len Bias, who was a great player in college and would have fit in perfectly with the Celtics, allowing them to rest their two big forward all-stars, Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. This would have prolonged their careers and the Celtics' dominance well into the 90's. Would. For his part, Len Bias was on top of the world - he had just been selected by the Boston Celtics, the best team in the world, rather than the usual scenario in which a star has to enter the NBA with a crap team and carry the load. But unfortunately for Len and the Celtics, Len decided to celebrate his good fortune and OD'ed on cocaine that night. The real tragedy of course is the death of Len and all his potential in the prime of his life. The secondary pyrrhic victory was for the Celtics, who lost their new star and whose front line would have to put in many more minutes than their aging frames could bear. They haven't won the title since.

4. Anne Boleyn - The second wife of King Henry VIII. Anne won the heart of the married king of England, so much so that being unable to get the Vatican to annul his marriage to his first wife, Catherine, Henry left the Catholic Church and formed his own religion, the Anglican Church, so that he could marry Anne. That's quite a coup; she married the King of England and launched the English Reformation. Too bad she wasn't able to give him a son (nevermind that that would have been his fault, genetically speaking) - an unfortunate reality that led to her beheading.

3. The Scorpion and the Frog - The scorpion wins a ride across the river on the back of the Frog. The scorpion convinces the frog to give him a ride across the river on his back, reasoning that he wouldn't sting him because then they would both drown. The frog agrees and starts swimming across the river with the scorpion on its back. Halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog and both start drowning. "Why did you do that?" asked the frog. "Because I'm a scorpion" said the scorpion. Both drown.

2. Boom Boom Mancini beats Duk Koo Kim - 21 year old American lightweight boxing champion of the world, Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini knocked out 23 year old South Korean Duk Koo Kim in the 14th round of their title bout, which was broadcast live on CBS on November 13th, 1982 (watched by a 9 yr old vtkid). Duk Koo Kim got up initially but the fight was stopped and he was incapacitated after the fight, hospitalized, and eventually died 5 days later from brain injuries sustained in the fight. Mancini went to Kim's funeral in South Korea. He soon slipped deep into a depression. Kim's mother and the referee of the match both committed suicide. Mancini fought a handful of times after that, but never recovered from the repercussions of this fight.

1. The Battles of Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC - King Pyrrhus of Epirus defeats the Roman Army, but incurs massive casualties from which his army cannot recover. The Roman Army has no problem replenishing their supply of soldiers and eventually wins the war.

The original.

[special thanks to N-Lo for his consultations and suggestions on this list]

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Screw Asylum

This is my latest cartoon for Illustration Friday Night (the topic is "screw asylum"):

Yeah. I don't know. I like it though.