I imagine I can guess the answer to this, but are you a fan of Métal Hurlant comics?
Yeah, though I think it’s really really indirectly, because I’ve never read an issue of Metal Hurlant, and only have like an issue of Heavy Metal. I mostly just am into the a lot of the artists who appeared in that, but have mostly read their work in collected form, or online divorced from that context. So I’m way into Druillet for instance, but I’ve never read Druillet’s stuff in Heavy Metal. Same with Bilal. Also a lot of the artists I like nowadays are coming from that perspective as well, of post-heavy metal.
It’s interesting as a critic, I really don’t read many comics. At least compared to others. Like someone like Jog who knows everything that has ever happened in comics, and reads everything—I can’t do that. I’m the type of person who is really good at finding the books I want, and then rereading them until they disintegrate. Maybe I see the art I take in as a way to shape myself, or see myself, or build myself through, so the books that I like or read, I want to live them for forever, and be changed through my relationship to them. As a kid i always viewed a new book as an opportunity to transcend my shitty self and become something new and better. That’s some kind of book junkie.
“The bases were drunk, and I painted the black with my best yakker. But blue squeezed me, and I went full. I came back with my heater, but the stick flares one the other way and chalk flies for two bases. Three earnies! Next thing I know, skipper hooks me and I’m sipping suds with the clubby.”—Ed Lynch (via mightyflynn)
“In his Discourse on Colonialism (1951), Aimé Césaire wrote that Hitler slumbers within ‘the very distinguished, very humanistic and very Christian bourgeois of the Twentieth century,’ and yet the European bourgeois cannot forgive Hitler for ‘the fact that he applied to Europe the colonial practices that had previously been applied only to the Arabs of Algeria, the coolies of India and the Negroes of Africa.’”—
Mahmood Mamdani, from “Modernity and Violence” in Good Muslim, Bad Muslim (via tzunuun)
It bears repeating that the reason Hitler is a Western symbol for the darkest depth of all evil, is that he broke the pact of whiteness and did things within Europe that white people agree should only be done to non-Europeans in Africa, Asia, America. Genocide in those places is acceptable, even natural, to Europeans; but Hitler brought genocidal brutality to Europe, and for that he’s the epitome of evil.
Something something income inequality? Something something bread and circuses? Just wondering.
While that feels like a seductive narrative, I don’t think the parallels hold up under scrutiny. In the late Gilded Age, newspapers were the most powerful, economically entrenched, and politically influential form of communication ever devised; their equivalent today isn’t blogs, but cable news networks. (Jonah Peretti isn’t the new Hearst, Roger Ailes is.) “Yellow journalism” wasn’t the bread and circuses (comic strips and rotogravure and syndicated columns and pro sports took care of that part of the newspaper empires), it was a drumbeat advocating for war and colonialism and unionbusting and scaremongering about The Yellow Peril and The Negro Problem and The Immigrant Menace.
Clickbait exists due to a climate of desperation, not muscle-flexing. Free-falling ad revenue and a surplus of media outlets and finite amounts of consumer attention mean that it’s equivalent not to the big chain papers, but to the tiny-circulation local papers, two to a town of 5,000, that were being pushed out of business by the Hearsts and Pulitzers starting in the 1890s, and who ran as much human-interest, reader-flattering, and advertorial content as they could just to keep the presses running. There were lots of other forms of clickbait in the golden age of print — news-of-the-weird tabloids like the Police Gazette, judgy slash salacious advice columns in women’s weeklies, all manner of epic rants, gleeful takedowns, and swindling hoaxes being passed around in broadsides and pamphlets and proto-zines — but bottom-feeding we have with us always. It’s the top-feeders you want to watch out for.
Imagine that every time you said the word “movie” you could count on a significant portion of your audience picturing the Universal monsters; unless they were extra-sophisticated cinephiles, in which case they thought of the Hammer versions.
Imagine if the monster-movie genre, instead of playing the relatively minor (though emotionally and technically significant) role it did in cinema history, had squeezed out all other genres of movie — western, crime, romance, drama, historical, adventure, comedy, musical, literary adaptation — by the 1970s, through a complex and dreary process of studio short-sightedness, fan myopia, cultural hysteria, and the bottom dropping out of the movie market four or five times.
Imagine asking someone what the greatest movies of all time were, and that they insisted that a dense third-generation metacommentary on the shared-universe motifs of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (complicated by layers of Reagan-era spiritual malaise) was the one thing you had to see, and that if you responded that you weren’t really into monsters they would nod and say “no, that’s what makes it so great, it totally deconstructs monsters.”
Imagine that movie theaters were grungy, unwelcoming holes in the walls of weird areas of town that were hard to get to and that there were fewer and fewer of them every year, and that the really good ones sometimes screened Dario Argento or kaiju movies at odd hours, but otherwise it was nothing but fifth-generation Frankensteins and Mummies shambling around, mostly getting into soap-opera storylines with each other rather than terrorizing any particular populace — the cinematic universe being more or less empty of any non-monster characters besides first-act cannon fodder — and that if you wanted to see movies with relatable human stories you would have to special-order DVDs with wildly variable production design and minuscule print runs, and if you wanted to talk about those movies online you would have to wade through pages of monster-movie fans calling stuff like The Godfather and Animal House niche material for pretentious hipsters, getting upset whenever anyone suggests casting a Bride of Frankenstein without enormous jugs, and insisting that monsters aren’t just metaphors for the ugliness inside us all, they can literally be used to tell any story, any story at all.
Maybe you’re thinking to yourself that this alternate reality doesn’t sound so bad, that you’d love to see what kind of whacked-out incestuous shared-universe monster movies someone like Ridley Scott would have had to make in order to play in the big studios’ sandbox. And sure, equating monsters with movies would make for more and better monster movies (in addition to many many worse ones), but would these imaginary monster movies be worth the loss of Blade Runner? Would the fact that every serious filmmaker active between 1970 and 2000 (after which the internet would start to even things out a bit by flattening distribution and providing DIY filmmaking spaces) would feel the need to parody or subvert or pay tribute in some form to monster movies be fun, or ultimately wearying and a waste of everyone’s time? Would a couple dozen more insane, highly literary, or unconventionally shot monster movies be worth the total disappearance of any form of middlebrow cinema?
Speaking of Spotify playlist folders. I have one titled “Instrumentals” which just contains albums that I listen to as I go to sleep. Music for Airports is my oldest go-to in there (so one answer, I guess, would be “1/1”), but a wide variety of jazz, classical, ambient, drone, new age, folkloric, and minimalist albums are in the rotation. Back when I used to last.fm everything, going-to-sleep artists dominated my stats (because I basically never listen to albums in any other setting), and at this point I’m barely ever listening to any other music.
"Otoño" by Agustín Lara. In the seven-volume [redacted] I’m still in the very earliest planning stages of, the last chapter would take its emotional and pacing cues from this.
P: a song that I’d recommend you based on your blog
"La Vida Es un Sueño" by Arsenio Rodríguez and his Conjunto; the original 1947 recording. You probably already know it; it’s not like it’s some obscure B-side instead of one of the most famous Cuban boleros of the twentieth century. But its combination of rhythm, yearning, and hard-won wisdom is something I associate with your tumblr.
T: a lovesong
There are an infinitude of love songs but as far as I’m aware there’s only one "Lovesong" (that’s right Jonathan, make fun of a presumable teenager’s typing, big man aren’t you). In any case one candidate for the greatest love song (unrequited division) (which is all I qualify for) of all time is Bunny Berigan’s 1937 recording of “I Can’t Get Started.”
X: a cover
Official position: The hell with every last one of the assumptions about music-making — about composition, performance, recording, ownership, identity, professionalism — that make a false distinction between “covers” and just plain music. Songs are made to be sung; a song that only one person can meaningfully deliver is closer to performance art, or an installation piece, than to the long, rich, and heterogenous tradition of popular song. For all its sins, one of the unambiguous benefits of American Idol is that it’s reintroduced to US culture the pre-rock conception of songs as common currency for everyone to interpret after their own fashion, almost unintentionally demonstrating that a good song is a good song no matter who sings it, in what style, or in what year.
That said, José Feliciano’s “Light My Fire” is so much better than the Doors’ I can’t even.
I live a butterfly-free existence, as far as I can tell or remember. My physiological responses to music (on the rare occasions that I experience any) involve the sinuses far more frequently than the guts. Which may mean that I’m defective, at least as far as the romanticized indie-hegemon tumblr understanding of music fandom goes; or maybe it just means that I’m old, straight, white, and male, and am more interested in my thoughts than in my feelings. Anyway, “Mandolin Wind” by Rod Stewart and most of the Faces and the mandolin dude from Lindisfarne.
Q: a song to drive to
All of them (all music is improved by being behind the wheel of a car), but especially “Neon Lights” by Kraftwerk.
Z: a randomly chosen song
Since I don’t carry a music library anymore, this involved going into Spotify and clicking shuffle on the most diverse playlist folder I could find. So “Don’t Know Much” by Linda Ronstadt ft. Aaron Neville, which was at #2 the week I turned twelve, but which I’d never heard until I made Spotify playlists of the Top Tens for my birthday weeks (through the age of 18) and then shoved them into a playlist folder called “Old Playlists” and forgot about them.
How to make friends, intentionally. How to implicate yourself into other people’s spheres of existence even after you’ve left the impression (in your own mind, anyway) that it’s not really something you’d like to do. How to do this in a city that wasn’t designed for close, frequent human interaction. (And whether to blame the city for your failings.)
But in all that wanting to write — indeed in all that writing — I never wanted to make my living from writing. Truthfully, I never wanted to make my living; the whole late-capitalist middle-class system of labor and housing and banking and insurance and utilities and taxation that I’d always vaguely grouped together under the heading of “adulthood” has struck me as irrevocably fucked up ever since I was old enough to take notice of it. It has not proven to be any less so on closer inspection.
(no I do want to write, but it’s a second-order desire, a desire of obligation and of keeping my name out there and of trusting that my currently-a-handful-of-dust first-order desires will come back around, this ain’t my superego’s first rodeo)
When I was a very young child, I wanted to write fairy tales and picture books; when I was a boy, children’s fantasy and comic strips; when I was a young teenager, historical fiction and comic books; when I was an older teenager, detective stories and poetry; when I was a young adult, dense literary fiction and graphic novels; when I was a no-longer-young adult, cultural criticism and biographies.
I got more and more boring as I aged. And now, when I don’t want to write at all, I am the most boring. I have extinguished the flame that burned in me since I was five years old. I am a corpse.
I’ve been in Chicago for over a year, but I only stepped into a local comics shop (one of the all-time great comics shops, Chicago Comics) for the first time yesterday. (I still have not spent any serious time in a record store or used-book store, the other two traditional sinkholes of my time and money.)
And I can feel how right I was to avoid them till now. I can feel that old retail lust worrying away at the back of my head, a slumbering beast that has caught the scent of fresh blood. I could easily have dropped a thousand dollars there by just glancing at the shelves, not even starting to really look for stuff yet. I don’t have a thousand dollars; I barely have the $23 the one book I allowed myself cost. (Beautiful Darkness by Kerascoët and Vehlmann, which I have on a hard drive in both French and Spanish, but I want to specifically support Drawn & Quarterly’s translation efforts.)
I’m working; I’m making rent; I can, reasonably, afford the very occasional purchase of beautiful things that feed my sensory and imaginative life the way that food (which I also budget for, and buy the best I can afford) both pleases my palate and sustains my existence. I’ve just never been good at “very occasionally.”
I am greedy; I am omnivorous; I am insatiable. I want to read all the books, listen to all the music, see all the movies, visit all the galleries. I’ve piled up so much stuff in previous attempts at a life that there are forty boxes of books (the vast majority of which I never got around to reading) still in storage in Arizona; there are lifetimes’ worth of music and movies and comics on my hard drives; there are decades’ worth of reading in my Kindle and Play apps. The urge to accumulate the things I love, and then to never stop, just keep adding to a theoretical library until it bankrupts me, is powerful. The metaphor of food consumption is not even really a metaphor; the decades of accumulation were the same in which I became a chubby, and then a fat, man.
The severe Calvinist who lurks in my subconscious whispers that I am still impure, that the vice has me yet in its grip; after all, I brought ten books with me to Chicago unread, and have still not read any of them yet. And the months of job hunting were looooong. I could have easily polished them off; but there were always new vistas opening up along the internet. And once I finally started working in libraries again, there were all those books to place holds on. Over half of which I’ve returned unread, as always over the course of my adult library-using life. I am trying to be too many people. I am trying to live too many lives. I do not have the capacity to engage with all the things I want to. But at least, finally, and maybe for the first time, I am engaging with my actual life.