The kids and I finished the second-to-last phase of filming for a video project that will hopefully be done within a month.

When asked about the experience making stuff, I was told, “My butt just burped.” [Identity withheld to protect the guilty.]

Here are some pre-edit screen shots.

Title sequence in which I animated in probably the least efficient way possible.
From a short sequence with some editing.
I was changing a light and dropped it and decided to take advantage of it.
I had other reasons for including owls, but I just realized this one in particular was probably also influenced by Twin Peaks.
I don’t know if I’ll use this.
False Empress
Real Empress

This week included speeding tickets, stomach viruses, the stinkiest, and ultimately most inedible, Brussels sprouts ever, and a white-knuckled trip to work in rain, standing water, and without streetlights, among other slight disasters.

My just-turned-four-year-old got a special present of pull-ups for her birthday because of the stomach virus.

Taking care of sick children did allow for a lot of snuggling, watching cartoons, and some reading.

Getting writing done is another story.

I did write a Lost Chords on the heavy metal art book Hellraisers.

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It’s been two decades since I’ve seen Buñuel’s work, with the exceptions of Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L’Age D’Or (1930). These are strange, beautiful films I revisit every year or so, each containing images seared into my visual memory. Well, aural memory, too. Almost every version of Un Chien I’ve seen uses “Tango Argentino.” It’s a piece of music that I hear in my head on a weekly basis. I’m not kidding. Maybe I should have given a warning before that link.

With Viridiana (1961)Buñuel managed to anger not only film censors, but also Franco and the Vatican. There is a fearlessness to his work, even if some argue that some of his metaphors are too obvious. I don’t know. Those images! These films were uncanny and almost incomprehensible when I was a young viewer. I enjoyed and felt transported by that quality. Now I can see the historical and social implications in his work and the films have taken on multiple meanings.

He was asked to change the ending in order to make it less suggestive. Originally, Viridiana goes into her cousin’s room and it is assumed that they are beginning an affair.  [spoiler here] He reshot it and had three characters sit down to play cards, and suggest the beginning of a polygamous relationship among them. And the censors okayed that ending! Cojones, Buñuel!

There are a several films I’ve missed by him (Robinson Crusoe?) and I’m hoping to dig into his work more formerly over the next year or so.

 

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Tom Hart’s How to Say Everything is a fantastic addition to the art/craft/storytelling shelf. Seriously. I found it as smart and warm as it is inspiring. I’m hoping to take a class at his Gainesville school, The Sequential Art Workshop (SAW), and who knows, maybe I could develop some online classes in literary content that he wants the school to have? I’ve been trying to establish a creative writing class for years and there just doesn’t seem to be money available to make that happen in the public schools where I work. But then again, it would be great to do some sort of film, philosophy, literature, or mythology course for these students. SAW’s website includes some free resources among other cool items.

I read excerpts from Hart’s Rosalie Lightning, his most famous work, several years ago and I just can’t read it in its entirety right now. I had a baby almost the age of Rosalie when I started reading it, and I knew the background story from a friend who teaches at SAW sometimes. What I read was beautiful and painful. The book is about the deepest love and loss that may be possible. I am planning on reading some of his lighter work, though, and I’ll read Rosalie some day.

 

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I ignored Danez Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead initially because of the oxen-like contrariness I seem to have about something I hear about too much in popular culture. Finally, after so many people I respect had mentioned this, including Ashley M. Jones, I decided to check it out.

Smith’s work is confrontational, political, personal, and can somehow be serious and seriously funny at the same time. Their use of form in this book is fantastic–styles that work against the traditional stage or page dichotomy. These are poems that live on the breath and breathe on the page.

 

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Delaine is awesome. Not My Small Diary is a series that she has edited for more than two decades now, while also doing her own autobio comics series My Small Diary. I was so excited to get this one because I’ve been a fan of the the series and the “unexplained” since before I could read. I had more than one Time Life collection on oddities, and for a brief period I had cable which made Monster Quest a great way to start a weekend.

The bittersweet center of this collection is that within days of getting mine it became known that longtime contributor (he’s possibly in every anthology in the series) and all-around cool comix guy Mark Campos took his own life. Unlike a lot of contributors and fans of this series who knew him personally, I can’t say that, but I can say that I deeply enjoyed his work and his contribution was always one of the first that I read. His work reminded me of some of my favorites from MAD (Aragones, Jaffee, etc.), and while he could be funny, he also took that cartoon style and fused it with so many disparate influences, and wound it through his own perspective, moods, and tones.

He is missed.

 

 

The week began with some semi-restful snow days. I don’t believe anyone in our home was permanently damaged, though a few tears were shed and more than a few markers bled.

The almost-four-year-old sang while we were discussing dinner plans. Her song began, “Tiki masala / I need a dolla.” Not bad.

I wrote about the new Sparks record for The Drunken Odyssey. I also wrote about one of my favorite movies, The Brood, for the new semester of Test Prep, part of The Terror Test podcast.

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Frank Herbert’s Dune has been on my to-read list for over twenty years. I liked, and still like, the David Lynch movie, which introduced me to Herbert’s mythology.

The book was a blast. Not only is it a satisfying sci-fi/fantasy adventure story,  but it also delivers beyond action. I particularly enjoyed the use of multiple texts contributing to the story as history, the Machiavellian political machinations, and the variations on religious teachings. If you’ve even contemplated reading it before, I recommend it.

I’ve heard the first three books in the series are worth reading. I’m going to consider that, but I find I am often as bad about completing a book series as I am about finishing a TV show.

 

 

I’ve only just seen Margarethe von Trotta’s fantastic work. While she has her own style and subject matter, there are shades of Kieslowski, Bergman, and Tarkovsky. She’s associated with the New German Cinema movement, which includes work by Wenders, Herzog, and Fassbinder.

She’s as good as anyone on that list.

Sisters, or The Balance of Happiness (1979) and Sheer Madness (1983) are the two most recent films I’ve seen by her. Both films focus on difficult interpersonal relationships, societal expectations, and suicide.

Last year I watched her first feature, The Second Awakening of Christa Klages (1978), along with Kathleen Collins’s Losing Ground (1982). They were both revelations. It’s argued whether or not Collins is the first or second African American woman to direct a feature. Unfortunately, the film only played a few festivals, Collins died of cancer soon after the film debuted, and she left a great deal of work unfinished. A biography was recently published about her and it’s on my reading list for this year.

I watched Losing Ground because I saw Duane Jones in the cast list. Jones is the lead in the original Night of the Living Dead (1968) and the main reason that movie, I think, stands out as not just a good horror movie, but a great film. Notoriously, he seemed embarrassed by it and did very few movies after that, but was well-known and respected on stage and as an educator. He died at 51 in 1988, the same year as Collins. I wish I could have seen him on stage. NOTLD and his performance have meant so much to me over the years that I choked up a little seeing him on screen in a different role. Some of that may have been Romero’s recent death as well.

I’ve seen a few episodes of Tales from the Darkside: Season Two and I’m excited that Monsters has now made it to Amazon Prime. I love these mostly dreadful (and not in the expected sense of the macabre) horror anthologies.

 

Most of the week was taken up with getting the second semester of school under way. That and the continual fight with the dryer. I will now have to hire a true mercenary after four troubleshooting attempts that have exhausted my limited handyman artillery.

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I’ve been a lifelong horror fan and spent a lot of time reading horror fiction when I was growing up. By college, I was reading mostly other genres, but I have kept up reading horror classics I missed and I’ve slowly been re-reading Stephen King’s bibliography in order. After a few years, I’ve only managed ’74-’81 and am currently on Cujo.  By the time I finish it, he will likely have written three more books.

Recently, The Horror Show with Brian Keene announced a book club. Given that the choices were contemporary, I thought of it as a chance to read some decent books in the genre that I have missed. January’s pick is Primitive by J.F. Gonzalez.

Primitive is and isn’t a zombie novel. I don’t want to say too much about it because much of the joy of the book in Gonzalez’s fresh take on the zombie apocalypse. Similar to pulpy sci-fi, the enjoyment here is the speed of the narrative and the ideas that Gonzalez plays with in the novel. Also similar to pulp, the speed kills chances to slow down and get into world, character, and thought. An argument could be made that the fast tempo matches form to subject matter. Okay. On that level the book delivers.

I generally want a little more.

So as a pulp horror novel, it’s fun, but that means that there is a lack of finesse in places. There are odd repetitions–spots where characters would repeat lines almost verbatim within a few paragraphs or pages. The pace of the narrative also meant that there were awkward expository conversations.

After reading this, I looked at some reviews and some people don’t like the move Gonzalez made at the end of the novel. I like what he did with form.

Keene has started, as a continuation of a project Gonzalez began (he died in 2014), a History of Horror Fiction at Cemetery Dance Publications. So far it’s a great series.

Maybe next year I’ll have time to jump on the Bowie book club.

 

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This is the first book of Wallace’s short fiction and the first of the genre I’ve read by him. I can’t really give a proper review of Primitive in this space, much less this one. Wallace reportedly renounced much of the work here and, if I remember correctly, in his first novel The Broom of the System.

I’ve found both interesting, but Girl feels like a young writer swinging for the fences with both success and failure. I am especially interested in the various masks Wallace puts on and how it seems purposeful that there is both an author and a persona speaking at the same time and that the author is somehow commenting on what the persona is saying.

If anything, on a first reading I was surprised by the endings of these stories and how much work likely went into them. There are times when a story seems to have devolved into a post-postmodern metanarrative only to spiral into some kind of emotional truth or beauty that feels somehow universal and unstable at the same time. The book could be frustrating, but in interesting ways. Definitely worth a reread, but it’s not for everyone.

 

I’ve also started writing a music review blog for The Drunken Odyssey podcast. Enjoy! Or not!

Though I won’t write about it, I am currently listening to Rush’s discography. I don’t care that you don’t like them. My brain is full of the love that is like the view from Rush’s stage: thousands of air drummers in perfect, glorious synchronicity.

I’m also reading Dune, so I kind of feel like that kid in “Subdivisions.”  Then again, I’ve always felt like that kid.

Nothing new here except the year.

Along with trying to meet some deadlines, I’ve been getting time in with the kids and their wonderful goofiness. Even in winter, the three-year-old seems to be allergic to pants. I am also watching videos about changing dryer heating elements. ‘Tis the season, I guess.

Part of a conversation I heard last night:

3YO: *Leaps onto mom’s legs and recently dislocated knee.*
Wife: Get off my knees, please!
3YO: *Still on legs.* That rhymes!
Wife: Yes. Yes, it does.
3YO: That Grinch is nekkid.

 

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I recently finished My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Vol. 1 by Emil Ferris. There’s a lot to like about this book: the art, composition, and colors, just for starters. I love the meaningful incorporation of horror comics and art into the story and its themes. I can see why people are so excited about the next volume and disappointed in its delay. Here’s a great comic about how the book came about and is an example of Ferris’s unique approach to the form.

 

As a monster kid myself, I’ve long wanted to see some of Bela Lugosi’s non-Dracula roles, but they were difficult to locate growing up. I recently watched two: Bowery at Midnight (1942) and The Corpse Vanishes (1942). These are perfect late night low-budgeters, if you like that sort of thing. Both are mixed-genre horror films. Bowery incorporates detective/thriller elements (and one could say that it’s more a crime film with elements of horror, but, anyway–) and Corpse incorporates sci-fi and gothic devices. A favorite plot element of Bowery involves the dual lives of Lugosi, who still sounds like Dracula in both, but no one recognizes him as a professor because when he manages his soup kitchen (his front as crime boss, which I guess is really his third role, sort of), he doesn’t wear glasses.

It takes a certain type of person to want to sit through that and maybe even another type who loves it. Corpse had me at the summary that begins, “Lugosi revels in his role as European horticulturalist Dr. Lorenz.”

Both films are worth multiple viewings for B-movie fans.

I hope you enjoy your New Year’s weekend!

Screen Shot 2017-09-08 at 7.26.21 PMI made two mistakes when I chose this book. One I make all the time and may get Paul Sahre’s approval as a designer. I chose this book because of its cover. I’m rarely rewarded, but I do it anyway. The cover design for Sahre’s book looks like somehow all the cover information had been set on top of the book, and then someone picked it up and everything slid down in a ragged pile at the bottom. It immediately drew me in. My second mistake was thinking that this was a book written by or about Jean-Paul Sartre and that the “two-dimensional man” was maybe one who acted in bad faith or was unfulfilled in some way. While Sahre broaches some existential angst and anxiety, that’s not this book.

The first thing to hate about this memoir is the author’s style. It’s well-written and funny. I hated this because a part of me hoped if Sahre was this entertaining in writing, his design work would be awful. This, of course, counter to the fact that he likely designed the cover that piqued my interest. And that’s the second thing to hate. His work is really good. It seems unfair.

When I opened the book and realized it was about design, I thought that at least it would be a quicker read than the imagined Sartre book. It was so immediately entertaining, I had to go back and check that I was indeed reading a memoir about work in graphic design. Sahre’s intro about his early art and his family is as easy and fun to read as David Sedaris. I didn’t expect it. An early drawing, prominently and embarrassingly displayed in his parents’ house, gives the name to the prologue: “Demon Eating Human Flesh.” This picture was a favorite of Sahre’s troubled brother who renamed himself “Angus” after Angus Young from AC/DC. Sahre describes his grandfather’s choice of one day capping his Old Spice with the head of a GI Joe doll, and deciding to continue this until his death. What’s wonderful about this object is that it is at once a bizarre juxtaposition, like something in a Devo video, and also a functional aspect of someone’s toilet. Quotidian magic.

When Sahre’s book finally becomes the book one expects, the one about design, the reader may feel cheated, but that’s only in comparison to the rest, and then only slightly. The table of contents page for Part Three seems to be a clue. Echoing the cover, the contents are in a heap at the bottom of the page. He’s sifted through piles of ideas, work, and events from his career and offering lessons and observations. The sections are shorter and more matter-of-fact. He discusses everything from teaching to business, including what he learns after a profanity-laden shouting match with Steely Dan.

Two-Dimensional Man also reminds me of Stephen King’s craft book/memoir On Writing, one of the few books about the craft that non-writers seem to have read and enjoyed. Both books are worth multiple reads in the way they show how lives shape art and art shapes lives. Like other satisfying books about particular arts, Sahre’s book has important lessons not only for others hoping to go into graphic design, but also anyone hoping to improve their work or hoping to find inspiration. Besides seriously analyzing fonts and their features, and having a deep understanding of basics like shape and color, Sahre put in a great deal of sweat equity painting signs and creating his own silk screen machines to create posters outside of his regular hours of design work at a firm. He sometimes slept on a cot in his office. There is some luck to his process and success, but a lot of labor went into creating that luck.