Cakes and Money

Friday, November 21, 2003
My Wallet is Wincing!

So we comic book fans in sunny Scotland finally got that big old Palomar collection that everyone's been talking about recently, and I find myself deliberating over whether or not I'm going to pick it up.

At £28, it's certainly as good a deal as you're going to get on these comics, but a small part of me wonders if it isn't too unwieldy for practical reading.

Hmmm. I'll probably end up buying it in the end - I'm a stickler for having stuff in one neat bundle, and a cheapskate to boot. I've been meaning to buy more Love & Rockets for ages now - I've only read the collection of Gilbert Hernandez's 'Poison River' story and various random bits and bobs scrounged up from back issue bins so far, but I'm very taken with this stuff, and am eager to read more. I don't know why I haven't splashed out on more Love & Rockets collections before now to be honest with you; I guess I just haven't been in the right mood to do so anytime I've been in a comic store.

So yeah, I'm probably going to get this sometime soon, and I'll probably end up buying some of Jaime Hernandez's stuff while I'm there, as I'm definitely curious to see how he reads in larger chunks as opposed to the random snapshots in which I have experienced his work so far.

Thursday, November 20, 2003
Wasn�t Even

Next week I will be:

- Writing two English Lit presentations.
- Giving one of them.
- Gearing up to write a couple more essays.
- Going to see Electric Six live with Chris and Gillian.
- Going to see Mark Lanegan live with Kevin.

I mention all of this not because it is a heavy workload (it isn't), but because my updates are likely to become even more irregular than normal for the next week or so. Sorry about that � I�d like to write more here (and I am aware that, as ADD once quipped, it�s not hard to maintain a daily weblog), but my social life, Uni work, and aspirations as a fiction writer (feel the pretension!) seem to be conspiring to prevent me from doing so with any regularity right now.

On the plus side I�m sure I�ll want to write about at least one of the gigs I�m going to after the event, so look out for that if you're interested.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003
I'm Not Someone Who Normally Wants To Make His Dreams A Matter Of Public Record...

... but last night I had the following dream, and it was just so silly that I thought I'd share it with all of you.

It's early March 2004, and my friends and I are in the cinema watching Kill Bill volume two. The movie starts, and after a little bit of action (the details of which elude me right now) Quentin Tarantino yells "Hold it! Hold it!"

He walks out in front of the camera, slowly, confidently. The actors and actresses look at each other, confused as to what is going on here, and Quentin, noticing their confusion, starts to laugh in the most OTT way. The actors and actresses are frightened now. Quentin's eyes start to pop out of his head as he turn to the camera and shouts - "You see this? THIS is why I deserve an OSCAR! THIS is why I'M THE MAN!"

A brief pause then, more forcefully, "I'M THE MAAAN!!"

He starts laughing again, clawing savagely at his own face, a hint of foam forming at the edges of his mouth. The credits roll, soundtracked only by his deranged cackles.

Oddly, as my friends and I leave the dream cinema, none of this seems even the slightest bit surprising...

Strike the Pose!

Sean Collins responds to my post about reading Jimmy Corrigan as a form of horror fiction, pointing out that “…horror is more than just a sense of despair and futility--much as we're supposed to think they need to be subverted or destroyed if a given work is to be any good, genre conventions do count for something, and I think that certain conventions of structure, imagery, and message are what enable us to stop the slippery slope that leads us to label as "horror" anything that's bleak or disturbing,” and upon further consideration I think I’d pretty much agree with him. I’d still say that it has some of the tensest, most horrifying moments in comic book history (a point that Sean doesn't seem to contest), but he is probably right to point out the usefulness and importance of traditional genre themes/images/ideas here.

I’d completely forgotten about this Steve Bissette piece about horror in comics, by the way – it’s a great read, and I’d like to thank Sean for bringing it to my attention (again).

Says Bissette:

"...I find Chris Ware and "Jimmy Corrigan," or Charles Burns and "Black Hole," the more interesting stuff. That's more personal, coming from darker places and not dealing with the usual trappings of the genre -- and thus, much more effective."

Yes. No. Maybe. Sometimes. It depends. Argh! Both approaches are valid. Both approaches are good when done well, and while they are vastly different, they do do push a lot of the same buttons. Hmmm... throwing Black Hole into the same category as Jimmy Corrigan is interesting; if looked at in this context, Black Hole can be seen as a sort of midway point between horror proper and the not-really-horror of Ware's book.

Comic Book Cleanup

Just in case there�s been any confusion, the series of posts in which I am currently assembling about my favourite comic books is in no sort of sensible order � it�s being cobbled together according to my mood, really.

Still, Hellboy is really good you know�

Oh, and one other thing: writing those posts about Chris Ware�s Jimmy Corrigan yesterday reminded me that I�ve yet to read the extra ending that was included in the paperback edition. Will get around to it at the weekend, I think�

My Favourite Comics part #2 -- Eightball #22

While I was deciding what other comics to cover in this prospective series of posts, it occurred to me that I had already written about one of my all time favourite comics in as much detail as I'm capable of doing so without entering the realm of in depth, blow-by-blow critical analysis.

Eightball #22, by Daniel Clowes, is, without a doubt, one of the finest comics ever created. It is both a joy to read and a slice of formal genius, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

I wrote a concise little post about it here, which I offer up to you in place of another similar post. If I had a lot of free time I would love to give this comic the thorough reading that it deserves, but as it is this is the best I can do right now.

(Heh -- I'm running a reprint! Go me!)

Just Being Honest

Help Outkast choose their next single(s)!
(via a thread in the Barbelith music forum)

First Thought: Bowtiebowtiebowtiebowtiebowtiebowtiebowtiebowtiebowtie!


Seriously though, both �Bowtie� and �Unhappy� are begging to be released as singles � pure quality, both of them. The swinging groove of �Bowtie� would be my first choice, with the lusher, smoother, but no less immediate �Unhappy� coming in a close second.

Second Thought: Isn�t it kinda neat that they provide audio samples of all the prospective singles on the website?

Third Thought: It seems to me to be harder to pick singles from Andre�s half of the album (The Love Below) than it is to select them from Big Boi�s Speakerboxxx. I think this is probably because, despite the fact that it needs a bit of trimming, The Love Below has a nice sense of balance as an album. And I don�t just mean the concept album-ish stuff (though that�s there too, I suppose); I�m talking about stuff like the way that the lyrics to �Roses� and �Behold a Lady� play off each other, or the way that �Prototype� serves as a nice change of pace on the album, but could sound a little blander and less interesting on its own. (This stuff has all been mentioned by other posters on Barbelith, but these are good points and tie into my thoughts on this topic, so I figured I�d restate them). It�s a messy, funny, pompy, silly, out there, poppy album, all in all, and it�s harder for me to think of what tracks would work best stripped of their context.

On due consideration, I�d say that �Behold A Lady� is the best choice (it�s catchy and weird in just the right proportions), with �Spread� as a potential follow up. I know some folk don�t rate �Spread� that much, but I like it, and think it would make for an unusual little single. Not sure why, really, but this is my gut instinct.

�Hey Ya!� was such a great choice for a single, don't you think? It�s not only one of the best songs they�ve ever recorded, but it also seems to appeal to all sorts of folk who�d normally never give Outkast the time of day without sounding in any way obvious.

Monday, November 17, 2003
Innocence and Experience

Stolen from the Face (and believe me, there’s not much worth stealing in the Face these days) - Electric Soft Parade’s Favourite Chris Morris headlines:

1. Elastic Song Strangles Hucknall
2. “Last One On Drugs Is A Queer” Yells Portillo
3. Dismantled Pope Found Sliding Along Road
4. Headmaster Suspended For Using Big-Faced Child As Satellite Dish
5. Where Now For Man Raised By Puffins?
6. Russia Elects Cobweb
7. “Feel My Nose And Put My Specs There” roars Drunken Major
8. Demented Racoon Prised From Cartland’s Headless Corpse
9. Boy Made Of Paint Wins By-Election
10. “Child With Glass Face Too Disgusting For Words” says Vicar

It’s amusing to read these silly titbits of absurdity stripped of any context; it reveals both Morris’ gift for gibberish wordplay and his inner brat in their purest form. Both of these elements are central to Morris’ work as a whole, but are normally so entangled in a whole cavalcade of absurdity that it’s hard to appreciate quite how silly the little details are.

Soundtrack: 4-Track Demos, by PJ Harvey

Said I: �I�ve not read everything I want to read, obviously, so my knowledge of comic book horror is an incomplete one, but I�ll post a brief list of comics that have actually hit on something scary for me (conceptually or otherwise) sometime in the near future.�

Promises, promises� I�ve really got to stop mentioning posts that I�m thinking about writing, as half of the time these ideas fall apart shortly after I come up with them. I�m still mulling over the world of comic book covers, and trying to figure out what I want to write about that, and I think there�s a brief post about the upcoming Hellboy movie to be written, but yeah� I need to stop mentioning unwritten posts as though they�re a sure thing.

Anyways, here�s a thought that hit me while I was scanning over my own blog for unfinished lines of thought: how about reading some of Chris Ware�s comics as a form of horror fiction?

I�m thinking about the way Ware creates a sense of isolation throughout Jimmy Corrigan not only textually (by creating a character who has massive difficulty communicating with anyone and then putting him through a sequence of events where he has to deal with lots of issues involving his until then absent father and his family), but also formally, by playing with various techniques designed to convey and emphasise these traits (covering the faces of other characters/keeping them out of frame etc) and in the, as points unbearably tense, pacing Ware employs in some sections. That scene with Jimmy and his half sister waiting in the hospital� jesus, that was intense! It just crawls along so slowly and apprehensively. It's quite an achievement really, in how it manages to be both uncomfortable and compelling at the same time.

It�s ridiculously effective stuff, but I guess that my strong reactions to it are at least partly caused by the fact that, while I can�t genuinely relate to Jimmy Corrigan as a character (even at my most useless, I�ve never been that crippled by angst), I can recognise just enough of myself in the character to find it all slightly hellish, in a �I could have ended up like that/possibly still could turn out like that� sort of way*.

Heh � when I write about it this way I find myself wondering quite why anyone would want to read the bloody thing, let alone how you could enjoy doing so. I am reminded of Roger Ebert�s review of Aliens, in which he claims to have came out of the movie feeling horribly drained by the tension of it all, but can�t help but admire the quality of the filmmaking within.

While my reaction to Aliens was very different to Ebert�s (I�ve always thought of it as the ultimate teenage boy movie, to be honest with you), I think there�s something similar going on here; Ware is one of the finest and most inventive cartoonists out there at the moment, and reading his comics is always an impressive and engaging experience, but the emotional quagmire which his work exists in (right down to the colouring which seems designed to express a nostalgia for something that probably didn�t exist in the first place) is just so numbing and frightening, to me anyway.

It�s maybe not traditional horror then, but there is that ever-building sense of despair in his work; the possibilities of human interaction and discovery set up and then mauled by stilted articulation and emotional fragility.

Hmm. I now find myself in the awkward position of wanting to say that I�m going to write a post about ACME Novelty Library #15, and not wanting to promise any such thing� I guess we�ll just have to wait and see, eh?

*I�m actually pretty secure in the fact that I�m now far too social and silly to ever end up being a Chris Ware character, but the idea does still give me something of a chill.


So with a little bit of effort (a nice, prominent position on the staff recommends bay and a short review by me) the paperback edition of Chris Ware�s massive Jimmy Corrigan graphic novel has become a fairly good seller at the bookstore I work in. It doesn�t sell in massive quantities, but it does tick over nicely, which is something of a relief for me. I really wasn�t sure how a �12 comic book would sell to people unfamiliar it (no matter how many fancy prizes it�s won), but after a slow start where a lot of people looked at it in complete bemusement, it�s been selling consistently for a couple of months now. YAY!

It�s kinda cool, because (spurred on by the sales Jimmy Corrigan has enjoyed so far) another staff member has actually ordered in a few copies of the collected edition of Ware�s Quimby the Mouse comics. I�ll be reviewing that and, hopefully, selling a couple of copies of it sometime after Christmas, as I don�t think we have much space for that sort of thing in the store right now.

With any luck, it�ll do okay too, and then� well, we�ll see how it goes, but I�d like to have at least one graphic novel on display at all times from now on. Could be an interesting project�


Jesus � it just took me half an hour to get this computer to start up without crashing. This thing�s so internally mangled that I�m actually scared to have it looked at and fixed, because there�s got to be a hell of a lot wrong in there, given how frequently and inventively it crashes on us.

Yup � I said �inventively�. I�ll say one thing for my computer; it doesn�t just crash the same old way, over and over again. There are favourites, sure -- recurring routines that we�re all very familiar with by now (�Oh � it�s doing the stripy thing again!�) -- but on the whole, our home computer keeps us on our toes.

More later.

There are a couple of comic book related posts percolating in the back of my head, but I don�t know if any of them will get written today, but there�s some other stuff which I�ll try and bang out in an hour or so, once I�ve chilled out for a bit.

Thursday, November 13, 2003
Drawing the Line

I'm liking 'New Sound' by the Capricorns today. A whole lot of people seem to have been mentioning it recently, but Kieron Gillen's description of it seems to me to be the most accurate:

Says he: "It's Bis with a Sleater-Kinney-vocal-flow which captures the hysteria of the pop-love, cramming too many words into too small a space because you've got so much to say and you realise that you could rip assunder any second."

Yes. It is.

Also: there's an interview with them on their site which features the line "There are times you want to heal and then there are times you want to date hot guys," which is just a brilliant quote, really. That quote = 2003 for me. In a good (and only slightly tongue-in-cheek) way.

(Can I talk about the Capricorns and still be all about the Flaming Lips today?)

Bad Days

You're sorta stuck where you are
But in your dreams you can buy expensive cars
Or live on Mars
And have it your way

And you hate your boss at your job
Well, in your dreams you can blow his head off
In your dreams
Show no mercy

And all your bad days will end
And all your bad days will end
You have to sleep late when you can
And all your bad days will end

(I'm all about the Flaming Lips today!)

Tuesday, November 11, 2003
Weird Science

One more post before I retire for the night.

A couple of half baked theories for you to chew on (and promptly spit out on the pavement):

(1) The Darkness + a decent rhythm section + mega-angst - deliberate humour = Muse.

(2) Intolerable Cruelty is to other Coen Brothers movies as an ass nailer is to a stealthy private detective (movie in-joke overload!).

This is to say that - yes, it is straight-forward, preditable, and lacking in the brothers' usual layer of floating depth/pseudo-depth, but it is also very enjoyable as a skewed rom-com. The humour is pure screwball/slapstick (jokes are set up and then knocked down with the minimum of fuss and just enough style and panache), and it does what it does very well.

�I think we�re on to something��

Heh � I just burned a CD of various musical bits and bobs that I�ve accumulated recently (mostly from Fluxblog), but had so far failed to put on a CD, and man, what a weird and wonderful mixture of songs it turned out to be.

Britney Spears � �Toxic�
Kylie Minogue � �Sweet Music�
Todd Rundgren � �I Saw the Light�
Folk Implosion � �Nothing Gonna Stop�
The Fiery Furnaces � �Asthma Attack�
The Fiery Furnaces � �Inca Rag Name Game�
Jay-Z � �My Name Is Hov�
Jay-Z � �99 Problems�
Can � �Turtles Have Short Legs�
Relaxed Muscle � �B-Real�
Grand Funk Railroad � �Some Kind of Wonderful�
Ghostface Killah/Method Man - �the After Party�
Chicks on Speed � �Coventry�
Andre 3000 � �Hey Ya!�
The Smiths � �How Soon is Now�
Frank Black � �Sugar Daddy�
REM � �Country Feedback�


- �How Soon is Now� and �Country Feedback� are old favourites, and were basically included on this CD because I�m really in the mood to listen to them right now.

- Those new Jay-Z tracks are great, which, after the flaccid mess that was Blueprint 2, is something of a relief. Sure, he may turn up for a guest verse up on, like, every hip-hop/R&B single ever, but the truth is that when it comes to sounding preposterously confident, few do it with the relaxed swagger of Jay-Z at his best. Hell, �99 Problems� even manages to get away with having big, crunchy rock guitars that sound like they�ve been stolen from Joan Jett's back pocket!

- I kinda like that Grand Funk Railroad song. It�s not amazing, but it is good, solid, fun, and I really like having it sit between the Relaxed Muscle song and the Wu-Tang track. Its quaintness in this context feels really charming to me. I dunno, it�s weird, because, as a 21-year-old kid (can I still call myself a �kid�?) from Glasgow, who grew up primarily on punk/indie/Britpop, I�d never really heard this song before. Well, actually, I think I probably had � but not very often, so it has a weird sort of novelty for me.

- That Ghostface/Meth track is amazing, not just because of its gorgeous production and typically outstanding rhyming (I [heart] Ghostface Killah!), but because its lyrics make me feel like I�m listening to some sort of Monkeys style Radio show about the Wu-Tang guys. This is definitely a good thing.

- The Kylie and Britney tunes are pretty much my definition of good modern pop. I�ve never been that huge on Britney � �Hit Me Baby One More Time� and �Slave 4U� were both pretty ace, but aside from that she normally leaves me pretty cold. �Toxic� is excellent, though, and I highly recommend it. Kylie�s been on a roll recently, producing smart, sexy electro-pop on a regular basis, and from what little I�ve heard of the new album, I don�t think she's about to dissapoint. �Sweet Music� builds up wonderfully and makes me want to do a little happy dance every time I hear it. There you go � I just did a little happy dance right there. In between the full stop and the start of the next sentence. The wonders of modern technology never cease, do they?

- My dad listens to Todd Rundgren a lot (or at least, he used to � what�s with that Dad?), and I have vague memories of hearing a lot of his songs in the background while I was growing up. I can�t remember really liking any of it, but this one is really pretty, and it�s growing on me pretty intensely right now.

- On the strength of these two tracks, the Fiery Furnaces have that skill to pull of songs that lesser indie bands would leave sounding a bit messy and all over the place with intelligence, wit, and grace. I am very curious to hear their album, as if these two songs are representative, it sounds like it would be very much my sort of thing.

- �Hey Ya!� = my song of the year so far. �Nuff said.

- �Coventry� sounds like one of the better Black Box Recorder songs spliced with a more traditional modern pop song, and then scrambled a little. I like it a lot, and between this tune and the bundle of stompy fun that is �We Don�t Play Guitars�... well, lets just say that I like where COS seem to be heading musically right now.

- Heh � Jarvis Cocker (*cough*, I mean Darren Spooner) knows the score. Skeleton costumes are where it�s at this year. Seriously � all the cool kids are wearing them, and you should to. You wouldn�t want to feel left out now, would you? The Relaxed Muscle stuff is ok � it�s not spectacularly great or anything, but it is entertainingly wonky electro-rock fun, and there�s nothing wrong with that every once in a while. Go Jarvis!

- That Can track is just so� genuinely unique. I�m not sure what to say about it, but I like it a lot anyhow.

- I've never really been able to get into Lou Barlow's music (Sebadoh, in particular, do nothing for me), but I�m pretty fond of this Folk Implosion song. The muggy atmosphere of the tune is going to work really well for me when I'm half awake on the bus in the morning� it's good headphone music, for sure.

- The Frank Black song comes from the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and sounds, as Flux noted when he posted it, quite exquisitely Pixies-esque in its musical and lyrical content. I was thinking the other day about the way that the Pixies sounded like this weird amalgamation of surf-pop, flamenco, punk, David Lynch, and heavy metal, and how interesting it is that Frank Black seems to draw his influences almost exclusively from a very different, and possibly narrower, field these days. I like a lot of his recent work, but Black�s weirdness seems to be much more rooted in the world of country music and old rock'n'roll records these days � there�s this very defined sort of Americana to his songs now, whereas his older material seemed to come from all over the place at once. Anyways - this is a great twisted blast of a song (Frank Black does weirdo ur-Glam!), and I like it immensely.

There you have it then: a collection of scribblings that I was too slow to write in Flux's comment section. I'm off to listen to the CD now - good night!


I [heart] David Fiore: "Part of growing up is developing the ability to imagine benevolently snickering Stan Lee narration boxes above one's head--no matter the crisis! That's the amazing thing about the Silver Age Marvels, they wallow everlastinglingly in the existential dilemmas that dominate our teen years, without ever actually adopting a teen-aged perspective on the issues at hand."

There's some good stuff in that post about the overdriven teenage angst of Chris Claremont's X-Men comics, and while I do have a lot of fondness for some of Claremont's work (Forager is on the money about Claremont and the X-Men in general here), I think Fiore hits on something really interesting in this post. What he says seems really obvious to me now, but I had never really consciously considered it before.

I'd also agree with him about Alex Ross' work, although, as Johnny Bacardi has already articulated, I don't think that Ross is deliberately fascistic or anything like that. I just can't get into his hyper reverential style, partly because it's a bit too pompy for me, and partly because I don't think that many superhero costumes look very good when rendered that realistically.

One day I might have a crack at explaining my problems with Ross/Waid's Kingdom Come, but I'm not in the mood right now, so it'll have to wait.

I also don't want to sound too malicious about Ross' work here. He's got a lot of talent, and while sometimes his storytelling looks far too cluttered to my eye, I do like a couple of the covers he's drawn. I guess his work just isn't to my tastes, really...

Anyways - I also [heart] Flyboy today.

If a pop song is good it is a good pop song. If a hip-hop tune is good then, hey, it's a good hip-hop tune (have you spotted the pattern yet?). If something genuinely does play with style, genre, presentation etc in an interesting way, then that's cool, but so much music journalism sounds like it is in denial over this sort of stuff. It's like when stuffy literary critics can't accept that a good sci-fi story is just that, and they have to try and pretend that it transcendeds it's genre in order to justify their enjoyment of it. Bollocks to that, quite frankly - I don't have any time for it.


It's been a while since I posted anything about the new Outkast double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, hasn't it?

It's been on fairly solid rotation at my place since I bought it, and I've been trying to think about how I'd pare it down to one album if I was going to do so. In some ways this seems antithetical to the nature of the whole thing - it's sprawling and inconsistent, yes, but that's part of the charm of it. For me, it's the sheer wealth of imagination that makes Outkast so great; even when some of it doesn't come off, I normally get so much from the overall package that I don't care at all.

But, seeing as I'm probably going to boil it down to one mini-disc's worth of tunes to carry around with me, I figure that I might as well start trying to work out exactly what I'm going include in my "selected highlights" version.

Here's what I've come up with so far (these songs aren't in any sort of order yet, and I'll almost certainly change my mind about which tracks I want to include tomorrow):

'Ghettomusick' - 'Unhappy' - 'Bowtie' - 'Love Hater' - 'Roses' - 'The Way You Move' -'The Rooster' - 'Dracula's Wedding' - 'Hey Ya!' - 'Flip-Flop Rock' - 'Spread' - 'Prototype' - 'Knowing' - 'A Life In the Day of Benjamin Andre (Incomplete)'

Friday, November 07, 2003
Glucose Syrup Is My Friend

I�m late in linking to this, but I feel like I should anyway, because it is, on a basic level, so on the fucking money about why Matt Bradey�s put-down of blogs is just so much bullshit.

There have been a couple of other eloquent replies defending the amount of quality blogging that goes on out there, but this one gets to the heart of the matter more directly for me, as Bradey's comment doesn't actually seem to engage with the variety of blogs out there in any real way - it's a really dumb general statement rather than an acurate critique, and should be treated as such.

Garnish 2 - this time it�s personal!

A couple of random (comic book related) thoughs for you:

- The last two issues of Peter Milligan and Mike Allred�s X-Statix have just been too weird for me. As others have commented, the re-writing process (in which the character of Princess Dianna has been replaced by a stand-in pop Diva) is very evident here, to the extent that it is disruptive. The story just totally falls flat, both because it reads like a hasty re-write and because the whole thing doesn�t work without Princess Di as a focal point - the plot, the jokes... everything just comes apart without her as the central character. In his reviews of the two issues in question, Paul O�Brien has went into this in quite a bit of detail, and while he seems to be enjoying this train-wreck more than I am, he�s still well worth reading on the topic.

- Thanks to the relative wonders of Ebay, a copy of Peter Milligan and Brendan McCarthy�s Rogan Gosh arrived through the mail yesterday. I�ll need to give it a re-read before I can comment on the writing (it�s four or five stories about curry, karma, enlightenment, decapitation and Rudyard Kipling, all mushed together into one sumptuously over-written cascade of sci-fi dream nonsense), but the artwork is wonderful. McCarthy�s fluid dreamscapes recall the bizarre worlds that Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko conjured up so wonderfully, but with more than a hint of British trashiness and irreverence to them (he did start out on 2000AD after all), and, in this case, a fair amount of imagery borrowed from Hindu religion and Tandoori restaurant menus. The eye-scorching colours are, as always, utterly essential to the effect here; these garish pages both look back to a very 60�s brand of psychedelia, and also feel heavily, if idiosyncratically, modern through their sheer hybrid energy.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

A couple of random (non comic book related) thoughts for you:

- My dog (a cute, if somewhat decrepit, Yorkshire terrier called, rather improbably, Butch) is going deaf. He hates fireworks � is terrified of them, like dogs are supposed to be � but this year has remained completely placid and indifferent to them. As he�s 14 years old, this comes as no surprise, but it�s still weird to be reminded that he�s getting on a bit.

- One sign of his age I could live without is his newfound love of urinating all over the kitchen floor at four in the morning and then howling until someone (i.e. me or my mum) comes downstairs to clean it up for him. In all fairness to him, this has only happened twice so far, but it�s still no fun.

- Glasgow felt like a war zone last night, between the constant November 5th fireworks and the pissed up football fans rumbling out of the Underground station. One booze-sodden lump of stunted masculinity seemed to be trying to pick a fight with me by shoving me off of the pavement and dribbling some sort of half-baked insult into my ear, but aside from that my night remained trouble free; the fact that we quickly retired to the flat probably didn�t hurt.

Stealth Raven (good names for bad heavy metal bands part #2)

More on horror and comic books:

I was very interested to read these two posts in which two different Daves discussed horror in comics (as linked to by Sean Collins).

The former argued that while movies and prose can do the big scare better than comics can (focussing on the fact that movies are more frightening because they are more real, and prose can be more frightening because it is more to do with the readers imagination), they can do conceptual horror as well as any other medium.

The later argues that comics CAN do the big scare, and that the secret of such frights is much more subjective and contextually personal than the other Dave allows.

�If, for example, there aren�t any horror comics that can terrify like the best horror movies (a claim which has been made recently, and which I think I pretty much agree with) then that is not to say that there could not be a comic which does. Try harder, people.�

I said this recently, in the middle of a big old ranty post, and I think I�d stand by it. It needs to be qualified a little though: while I do think that there�s a hell of a lot of untapped potential in the comic book medium (one of the reasons I�m so fond of comics is that it seems to me that there�s still a lot of artistic territory to be charted in all directions), I don�t think that comics can do everything well, or rather, exceptionally. I�m not sure exactly what comics can or can�t do yet, but it stands to reason that there are and will be limitations.

So while I find myself roughly agreeing with the first Dave, in that I do find the �reality� of film and the amount that�s left to the imagination in prose more naturally conducive to visceral horror*, I still think there�s a lot of unused potential in this area of the medium.

I�ve not read everything I want to read, obviously, so my knowledge of comic book horror is an incomplete one, but I�ll post a brief list of comics that have actually hit on something scary for me (conceptually or otherwise) sometime in the near future.

As for the second Dave�s post � he�s certainly right to point out how subjective stuff like this is, but I�d agree with Sean Collins, in that this is true of gut level reactions to most forms of art/entertainment, not just horror, and that, yeah, there�s work to be done in digging up what causes these reactions.

*Which can be conceptual as well, of course...


It�s essay season round my way, and while this is all very well and good, it means that I�ve spent the whole morning wrestling with my least favourite part of the essay writing process � the introduction.

Many tutors have told me just to skip the intro until I get a better sense of how my essay is working out, but I just can�t physically start writing the body of an essay until I have some sort introduction to bounce off of, even though I normally end up re-writing it over and over again.


I was working at the bookstore on Sunday, and about half way through the day I had to go through to the office to pick up some change for the front tills. No problem. I get there, and Camilla and Val are talking about this and that. After checking that I wasn't interupting some sort of top secret senior staff meeting, I kneel down, unlock the safe, and take out the change. I stand up again to dust my knees off, before leaning forward to re-lock the safe. As I do this, I hear a horrible, horrible ripping sound. Confused, I look down, and realise that my trousers have ripped, right down the crotch.

This is a rough record of the conversation that followed:

David �Fuck!�

Camilla: �David?�

David: �My trousers have ripped.�

Camilla: �Where?�

David: �Right down the fucking front!�

Camilla: �How right down the front? Turn round and show us.�

David (blushing): *Grumble*

Camilla: �Come on David, we�re both women of the world here.�

David (turning round): *Grumble*

Camilla: �Mmm. Just stay in the back and price up some of the Christmas stuff for the rest of the day.�

David: *Grumble-grumble*

Caption: Boo!

Unimaginable comic book horror � Jack Chick offers an answer to my question of what�s not to love about Halloween in his usual bonkers style!

I know that Franklin Harris has already linked to it, but hey! And yeah � you laugh at this stuff, not with it, but it�s not just me that comes away from it feeling really frightened by Chick�s zealous fervour, is it?


I know it�s a bit late to be saying this now, but Halloween is surely the coolest pointless burst of annual festivity around!

People dressing up in all sorts of crazy outfits, kids stuffing themselves with chocolate, a re-jigged version of Ridley Scott�s wonderfully atmospheric Alien in the cinema � what�s not to love?

Fridays Halloween party was grand, though Zoe�s friends loose points for not having costumes. Zoe�s outfit was bonkers (it was based on the look of Darryl Hanna�s character in Kill Bill � red cross eye-patch and all!), Kenny looked surprisingly hot in his Once Upon a Time in Mexico duds (despite the fact that he had streams of fake blood coming down his face), and Scott looked� scary in his Aliens style marine outfit. Chris�s bandito, and Gillian Reid�s dead-taxidermy-mother look also deserve honourable mentions, even if I did need to be told what Gillian was going for! Oh yeah - and I wore a skeleton costume as a vague Donnie Darko/Relaxed Muscle tribute. Fun!

I might post a photo or two here later�. we�ll see.

A brief thought about horror movies and viewing conditions � we watched the old black and white Night of the Living Dead on Friday night, and due to the generally silly modd we were all in, it became something of a joke fest. This was fun and all, but it also got me thinking about the ideal setting to actually watch a horror movie with the intention of really getting into it. This also came to mind on Saturday night, when we saw the re-cut version of Alien in the cinema �in many ways this was a wonderful experience, but quite a few people laughed during some of the more intense moments, which did weird things for the afformentioned wonderful atmosphere of the movie. My personal theory is that half of those who laughed just weren�t into it (fair enough � it�s not going to be everybody�s thing), and that the other half were blustering through in an attempt to not look scared, but either way it was slightly odd for me, as someone who was very much engrossed in the movie. This is slightly less extreme than the effect generated when you and a big group of your friends laugh your way through a movie, but it still reinforces my feeling that perhaps the best way to watch a horror movie is on your own (or possibly with one or two friends who are in the right mindset for it), in the dark, and at an obscene time of night. That�s not to say that this is the only way to do it, but it�s one that I certainly appreciate� I�m just remembering watching Eraserhead, and Videodrome, and countless other movies on my own at night during my early teenage years, and being absolutely riveted by them � totally bugging out over the sheer weirdness and horror of it all.

Kenny did point out to me that the size and (relative) unfamiliarity of a cinema can add to the experience in a way, and he�s right, but my personal preference remains. It's easier to be scared when you're on your own, with nothing but your imagination for company (even if you can just switch the film off and go make some toast any time you like).

More later�

Saturday, November 01, 2003
More Confessions...

One last thing about Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: the scene transitions which used that old trick where one background wheels in behind a character in place of another (or sometimes until it takes up half the screen space) was so wonderfully apt in this movie, really adding to the TV set feel of the whole thing. I can't remember how many times they used this gimmick, but it was present often enough to amuse me all the same.