||Thursday, March 27, 2003
You know what I like? I like comics that teach me something. I'm not talking about a didactic 'life lesson' kind of comic story, I'm talking about purely practical knowledge, you know, like how to get fitted for a horse. The type of useful, practical information that causes me to say, to nobody in particular: "Well, I did not know that!" and then note it down as another interesting but probably irrelevant fact about horseback riding to be brought up in a middle of a conversation with somebody that has a horse, or likes horses, or is just slightly horsey-looking that might cause them to think: "Hmmm. This fellow is strangely knowledgeable about horses. He really is a well -rounded and thoughtful individual, and not at all the arrogant know-it-all I first thought him to be". If they want to, comics can be really good at passing on this type of knowledge in the course of a story, and I find it extremily satisfying that I might learn from a comic how to set letter type the old fashioned way, or how to sell door-to-door, or how to turn a person into a pig.
First, horseback riding; I went horseback riding as a child and never quite enjoyed it. I always want be the best at everything right off the bat, and I don't think horseback riding is one of those things that can be 'picked up' just like that or, at least, not by me. Even at a slow trot I felt in jeopardy of falling out of the stirrups, and when galluping, I was jolted back and forth and from side to side so violently that my feet came flying out of the stirrups and I almost let go of the reins and I ended up hanging on for dear life to the saddle horn and that developed blisters on my hands afterword that hurt for days. I never had even considered the possibility that I might've been too small to ride the horse that I was on or that, really, you should get measured for the proper-sized horsed before you go out riding. Well, leave it to Frank King to make it all clear in to me in his funny and gentle way.
The second story in the second volume of Dark Horse's Astro Boy comics, The Third Magician features an interlude in a stage show by the magician Kino, in which Tezuka explains in four panels, how Kino put a young boy into a box and turned him into a pig, and then back into a boy again. Now, in our current days of Magicians who give away all the tricks on cable TV and probably a million websites devoted to revealing "The Secret of The Magic Trick" this might not seem like too big of a deal, and really I guess it's not a big deal, but it was one of my favourite parts of the whole comic. Up until reading it I had no idea that that was how that trick was done. Sure, I knew it was all done using mirrors, everyone knows ALL magic tricks are done using mirrors. But really enjoying an Astro Boy comic requires you to put yourself back in the headspace of a twelve-year old, and as a pre-internet pre- Penn and Teller twelve year old I know I would've find that whole explanatory sequence to be pretty cool.
posted by Alan
Sunday, March 02, 2003
Shut the door!
Much like I imagine the experience of getting caught masturbating in the bathroom must feel like, I have just realized that there now exists a link to my blog on Steven Wintle's Flat Earth. Having told only two other people about my blogs existance it came as a surprise to see this. If anyone has actually been reading what I've been writing, then, I must apologize for the lack of coherence in the preceding anecdote, and for the infrequency of the updates. My original impetus for doing the site, being bored in the staff lounge during lunch, has reached a sort of an impasse. The Fousball Players are TOO DAMN LOUD FOR ME TO THINK! Couple that with Maury Pauvich, Golf Tournaments, European Cup or Hockey or whatever else blaring from the television and a line up of people standing behind me waiting to check their email during their lunch has made it very difficult for me to post anything more than a couple of sentences. But I shall try.
So, as is customary for blogs, here is a bunch of links I have been enjoying:
Just listened to the first part of a new series on BBC 3's excellent Jazz File about Fats Waller and the rollicking ragtime derived 'stride' style of Jazz Piano he made famous. The first episode traces the roots of the style back to Willy 'The Lion' Smith, U.B. Blake and James P. Johnson and the show features an interview with "The Lion" in which he colourfully relates what it was like to play for hours non-stop in jumping Atlantic City bars and mingling with 'The Cut-throats'. With the measured assurance of somebody who's told the same story a hundred times before he describes his first meeting with Fats, and explains how he was the one that taught the up and coming jazz star all the 'phraseology' or as it's also known: "The modern slang that'll always stick."
Make sure you check out the show before Saturday when the new episode is aired.
Gasoline Alley Action
Meanwhile, in the ongoing Wallet Family drama over at Yahoo Groups Skeezix and his romantic interest Nina are making nice after giving each other airs because fickle Nina had started giving a lot of attention to that phony farm boy. Now that they're 'on' again, it's up to Skeezix to get rid of his interim girl, the slighty loopy Lola, and lucky for him his old military academy buddy Brick has shown up to take her off his hands. Trouble is Lola is not so willing to give up Skeezix. NIna decides to go on a 'boy vacation' and as a result, guess what, Skeezix likewise determines that he and Brick should take a 'girl vacation'. So there! This strip confirms that young men in the 30's were just as pathetic as young men in the 2000's. (what do we call this decade anyway?)
In the earlier series of 1935 Gasoline Alleys that are running concurrently, yet another orphink child has shown up on Walt's doorstep (actually the back seat of his car) and he and Phyllis have to decide whether it would be wise to take on a third child. I ask you, where would comic strips and literature be without the perennial plot device of the orphan left on the doorstep?
And in Gump action, Bim Gump faces the possibility of going to jail for his philanthropy, after hiring ex-pickpocket Mr. Hand to shove dollar bills in Prince Charming's pockets in order to create a good life for him and his new bride 'The Countess' who is ill with some sort of a brain disease and doesn't know it yet. Have no idea what I'm talking about? Well then, get on over there and check it out!
Thanks must go to Bruce Rosenberger for moderating the groups and providing most of the scans.
Here's a short article in the New York Times about Jules Feiffer's Post-Village Voice activities. Apparently, he's giving play-writing another shot, of which I'm glad. It seems like he shifted all the psychological satire of his his earlier strips almost totally into his plays and scripts, and turned the focus of his Voice strips almost completely to political satire, which won him a Pulitzer, sure, but which I didn't enjoy as much.
"My avocation," Feiffer says "was to write flop plays". I actually quite enjoyed "Elliot Loves" which he calls his 'retirement play' and was such a flop it convinced him to give up on theatre. In fact, when I first read it in my early twenties I remember that I found the opening monologue to be tremendously moving. When thinking about this on the drive home, I realised that his first kids book "The Man In The Ceiling" came out three years after "Elliot Loves" and its story perfectly combines his two chosen vocations; first cartoonist, represented by young protaganist Jimmy, who is an aspiring cartoonist, and also his later adopted vocation, the playwright, in the character of Uncle Lester who is either an "underappreciated talent" or a "no talent bum" depending on who is describing him.
posted by Alan