Cakes and Money

Sunday, February 29, 2004
Slow Motion

Just a note to say that Cakes and Money version 2.0 will be launching sometime very soon, and that you should keep an eye out for that if you're interested. I'd hoped to get it up and running sooner, but I've been ill this weekend, and have mostly just sat around watching The Sopranos on DVD instead of doing anything productive as a result. Mmmm... good TV! But anyways - I'll get off my ass and sort things out soon enough. For now, have I mentioned that my buddies and I are writing about comics a lot at the moment?

Saturday, February 21, 2004
New Sound

Insult to Injury - a group comics blog, written by three semi-literate Scottish students is up and running now. The template and sidebar links are going to be revised pretty heavily over the course of the next week or so, but we really just wanted to kick things off today and roll through the cosmetic changes, so that's exactly what we're doing.

As I've already said over on the group blog, I'll be launching a new version of this blog sometime in the next week or so, and you'll be able to keep up with all of my non-comics related ramblings there if you want to. More about that in the near future. In the meantime - comics-comics-comics!

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Exam Timetable

Panic stations:

Thursday 15th April
Augustan @ 9.30am
Renaissance @ 2.30pm

Monday 19th April
Theory @ 2.30pm

Tuesday 20th April
Irish @ 2.30pm

Monday 26th April
American Modern @ 2.30pm

Tuesday 27th April
Victorian @ 9.30am
Shakespeare@ 2.30pm

Tuesday 4th May
Modern @ 2.30pm

Trapped In The Infinite Revamp Machine

Ok, so I only re-christened this blog Cakes and Money about a month-and-a-half ago, but... erm... I'll be starting a new blog with a couple of friends of mine in a week or so. I'm still trying to figure out whether or not I'm going to keep this place up and running, as the exact content of this group blog project is still under discussion. Primarily, it's going to be about comic books, but whether or not this is going to be the focus of the blog to the exclusion of most of my other interests we haven't figured out yet. If it is, then I'll keep on writing about movies and music etc here or elsewhere in addition to posting on the new blog, and if not then hey - I'll just pour myself into the new project.

While my house is pretty much back in order this week, my computer is playing up something awful at the moment, and as a result I don't have home internet access right now. Because of this, and because I want to take some time to work on setting up the aforementioned group blog, I'm going to take a week off from blogging starting tomorrow. Don't worry fight fans - those posts on Punch-Drunk Love and Joe Casey are still in the works. They've just been delayed a little is all. Ideally, when we've got this group blog up and running, our combined efforts should ensure that freshly blogged material is pretty consistently on offer, which would, of course, be a very good thing.

Anyways, tune in next week for an update, and take it easy out there in the meantime.

Sunday, February 15, 2004
Fridge Magnet Fun!

(Big thanks to my friend Alison, who both composed and photographed the above slice of fridge magnet lunacy.)

Friday, February 13, 2004
Tiny Shoes!

Congrats to Journalista's Dirk Deppey on his promotion to editor of The Comics Journal. As Journalista readers will already know by now, this means that Journalista will be going on hiatus for the time being. Needless to say, it shall be missed - there are many excellent comics blogs out there, but none of them quite match Journalista in terms of sheer news-power (or, indeed, in terms of link-power!), and Dirk's grouchy, but always highly intelligent, commentary is one of my favourite parts of the whole comics blogging scene. Hopefully Journalista will be back in one form or another sometime in the near future, but either way I'd like to wish Dirk good luck in his new position. I'm sure he'll bring a lot to the job, what with him rocking ass and all.

Right - that's me for tonight folks.
Take it easy and have a great weekend...

The Borges Method

Boy do I ever wish that I could remember exactly what it was that I had in mind when I announced that I was going to compose a post on the "idea of good taste" this week. Lets see if I can piece it together as I go along:

I think the basic idea was that I was going to write about the idea of having "good taste" in art/entertainment, and how weird this is in a lot of ways. I was probably going to talk about how much of a music snob I was in high school, and how totally obnoxious and absurd this seems to me now. Sure, it's natural and useful to figure out what you do and don't like*, and it's definitely very healthy to develop critical skills to analyse these tastes, but there's no need to be an asshole about it, or to force your opinions down everyone else's throats while you're at it. While I was stomping around this territory, I was almost certainly going to point out that there is a big difference between this sort of behavior and engaging in an intelligent discussion with other people - one is interesting and potentially productive, providing you with different perspectives (both positive and negative) on things that you do or do not like, while the other is just really fucking annoying and pointless.

Yeah... that all sounds about right, but wasn't there more to it than that? Probably. But right now I still can't remember where all of this was supposed to be going. Maybe it'll all come back to me later - we'll see.

*Though it's not a good idea to get too stuck in your thinking while you're at it!

Thursday, February 12, 2004
Comming Soon

I'll be writing that post about Punch-Drunk Love soon enough, but today I'm just going to bask in the above photo for a while. Man is there ever a really weird, not to mention charmingly nervous, chemistry between Adam Sandler and Emily Watson in this movie...

Keep It Snappy

So, Wanted #2 then - where to start?

When I gave issue one of Mark Millar and JG Jones creator owned comic an uncertain, but fairly positive write up last month, one of my big points was that this was not, in any way, "Watchmen for supervillains" - this is still very true. Millar has yet to develop any of his characters beyond the basic level, and the whole enterprise lacks anything approaching the formal mastery of that most revered of 80s superhero comics. I also said that it had the potential to develop into both a masterful slice of deadpan absurdity, and a neat enough play on superhero conventions. It's yet to truly find its feet as a black comedy, but there are indications that it may eventually shape up to be a pretty interesting take on the superhero genre.

Obviously Wanted engages with the idea of superpowers as escapist power fantasy in a pretty direct manner, and furthermore, it does so in the most negative way imaginable. This is a world in which there are no superheroes; where the only way that one can partake in this particular power-fantasy is to become part of one of the groups of big-old nasty supervillains who pretty much have total control over the world. Even if Wesley wanted to go off on a big superhero kick he couldn't. Well, he could try, but the implication is that he wouldn't last long! Not that it looks like he's quite heading down that route yet, but still... this is clearly meant to be a big part of the point that Millar has cooked up here, especially when he throws in the fact that the only remaining traces of superheroes in this world can be found in comic books*. The twist on the last page seems to be a set-up for a potential return of superheroes to this world**, which begs the question - is Millar setting this up to destroy it, or is this comic actually going to have a "happy" ending?

I'm still not entirely sure whether or not I'm going to continue to pick this book up - for all my rambling, I didn't actually find the issue in question that exciting or funny, and there were a couple of bits that just plain got on my nerves (hello Shit-head - you can join Fuckwit in the "really crap character ideas" pile). JG Jones artwork looks great and all, but so far he's not been given much to do. Hmmm... decisions, decisions...

*Yeah, I know, this is hardly a new idea (cough, cough - *FlexMentallo*), but hey!

**Well, that's where I see this particular plot thread going, but I suppose I could be wong on this one***.

***It could also all be in the main characters head, I suppose.

Monday, February 09, 2004

I Might Be Wrong

So with Dirk Deppey revealing that Be A Man worked well for him, despite being the first piece of Brown's work that he's ever read, and Matthew commenting that it might well be his favourite Jeffrey Brown comic yet, it appears that I may have slightly underestimated the appeal of the comic when I wrote about it yesterday. I find this very interesting, not to mention a little a bit surprising, so I'm going to read it over again some time in the near future,and tell you all if my opinion of it has changed at all...

Giddy Lunacy

Ok, so I forgot that we were redecorating in my house right now, and that as a result of this I'm pretty much going to be blogging/essay writing in various Libraries for the time being. This is cool, but it does mean that I'm going to have to write these entries a little bit quicker than I had originally intended. Right now I'm paying for the use of a PC at East Kilbride library, and since I don't have that much money to waste, I can't afford to write in the haphazard, dawdling manner to which I am accustomed.

But enough of that - lets talk about 'Lucky Star', by Basement Jaxx.

It kinda sounds like a sci-fi street carnival, or the nearest British equivalent, with Dizzee Rascal's vocals bouncing snappily across a busy, jubilant soundscape, but yet... there's a sort of emotional desperation lurking underneath all of this, and this element of the song really comes to the surface during the choruses, with their stuttering back-forward synths and simple vocal line...

"This better be my lucky star
I'm too far gone, I've gone to far
This better my lucky star
I'm too far gone, I've gone to far

It's the comparative sparseness of these sections that really brings out this quality - it's there in the verses, both musically and in Dizzee Rascal's vocals, but when that bustling party music backdrop disappears (taking Dizzee Rascal with it) its presence becomes much more noticeable.

It's still basically just a big old ball of fun, but there's a slightly darker quality to it, and I like that.

Sunday, February 08, 2004
The Four Digit Territory

I'd agree with Bill Sherman that while the central concept of Jeffrey Brown's Be A Man is pretty thin, it's still a very funny comic. The basic joke here is that Brown has decided that his first graphic novel Clumsy (an autobiographical work that dealt with a long-distance relationship that didn't work out in the end) was "too sensitive and pathetic", and has re-drawn parts of it in an attempt to "fix" himself.

For a general indicator of the persona that Brown adopts here, observe the following micro rant, which graces the last page of the comic:

"Raar, beer, sex, sports ungh, unh, porn, kick ass, fuck, explosions, trucks, breasts, meat, bitch..."

Basically, the appeal of this is in the sheer lunacy with which Brown pursues this pose - this is mostly only going to be funny to people who have read Clumsy, as while this is all very amusingly wrong when you're familiar with the well observed mix of humour and emotional fragility of the original, I can imagine that it would just seem a bit random and one-dimensional to those who have never set eyes on Brown's debut graphic novel.

If this went on for more than the thirty or so pages that it does, it would quickly become tiring, but as it is, it works fine. There's no real critique of either Brown's work or of the idea of "being a man" in here beyond the surface level, but there are some damn brilliant moments in there ("That chick is hot!"), and it's well worth a look if you're a fan of Brown's work.

Weird Jeffrey Brown related fact: one of my local comics shops (A1 Comics) seems to be stocking Brown's work in their manga section. Now I'm assuming that this is a deliberate choice, and as such it's interesting - both Clumsy and Unlikely are about the same size as your average manga, but their soft/rough aesthetic clashes entirely with most of the surrounding comics and, when it comes down to it, they're not even remotely mistakable for manga.

I wonder how they're selling?

Dear World:

I promise that I will never again write a stupid blog post about my pet dog. I've brought shame both on myself and my family, and for this I apologise. It's a bizarre and unseemly habit, and I have no idea where it comes from. Why I sometimes feel the need to vent my canine-themed ramblings on an unsuspecting public, I don't know, but I want you all to know that I realise that this is a problem, and that I am trying to stop.

God, I love being a big goofy idiot!

Saturday, February 07, 2004
Reevaluating Joe Casey

After reading the rather hefty interview with him in The Comics Journal, I decided to give some of Joe Casey's comic book output a brief reevaluation.

I guess I was impressed by how open and interesting Casey seemed in the interview, and given that he was willing to admit that his Uncanny X-Men run didn't really work, I figured that I might as well get over my dislike of his writting on that title and look at a couple of bits and bobs of his work with un-prejudiced eyes, and while I've found a lot of his writing to be uneven, there's certainly a lot to like there as well. I'm particularly interested in his attempts to deal with the question of what happens to characters after their big narratives/creators are gone - this crops up in his work on Wildcats, as well as in Automatic Kafka, and even in one issue of his Superman run, and at some point this week I'm going to write a little about his handling of this theme.

Other topics I want to tackle in the next seven or eight days include Punch-Drunk Love, Wanted #2, the idea of good taste, and the Basement Jaxx song 'Lucky Star'. Hopefully I'm going to show a sort of scattershot discipline in my blogging habits this week - I've got an essay to write on funhouse mirrors in Borges and Nabokov, but with any luck this wont get in the way of my other writing too much.

Take it easy everybody.

Brave New World

My dog is not having a good week. Our living room has become an ever-shifting mess due to some re-decoration work that is currently under way here, and suffice it to say that he is very scared and confused by the current unreliability of his home environment.

As if to add insult to injury (what a fun cliche!) it has started to snow heavily where I live, and our neighborhood is currently buried under a light layer of the fluffy white stuff as a result of this. Butch, as my dog is rather improbably named, is a Yorkshire terrier, and is thus not particularly comfortable with this sort of weather - even at its most modest snow threatens to overwhelm him entirely. This has made his recent walks short, frantic things, which I can only presume are both frightening and unsatisfying for the little guy.

His entire tiny world has been rendered hostile and unfamiliar to him, and while I'm making all of this sound a tad more dramatic than it really is, it's still a wee shame.

What Time Is It?

Erm, where did last week go? It just sort of seemed to slip out from under me...

More to follow when I shake the dust off and remember how to blog properly.