David, Not Christopher

You gotta love the tracklisting for David Cross’ new album, It’s Not Funny:

1. Certain Leaders in Government Look or Act like Certain Pop Culture References!
2. Women, Please Rinse Off Your Vagina and Anus!
3. A Rapid Series of Comical Noises!
4. I’ve Taken a Popular Contemporary Pop Song and Changed the Lyrics to Comment on the Proliferation of Starbucks in My Neighborhood!
5. Although Indigent, Rural Families Have Little to Say in the Matter, Third Rate Public Education Has Kept Them Ignorant and Thus, Great Sources of Ridicule!
6. My Child is Enthralling, Especially When It Says Something Unexpectedly Precocious Even Though It Doesn’t Understand What It Just Said!
7. My Immigrant Mom Talks Funny!
8. When It Comes to Jews, Behavior One Might Perceive as Obnoxious and Annoying I Present as “Quirky” but It’s Okay to Joke About It Because I, Myself, Am Jewish!
9. Pandering to the Locals!
10. Even Though I Am in the Closet, That Won’t Prevent Me from Getting Cheap Laughs at the Expense of Homosexuals!
11. Weathermen Have Become, for the Most Part, Obsolete!
12. When All is Said and Done, I am Lonely and Miserable and Barely Able to Mask My Contempt for the Audience as I Trot Out the Same Sorry Act I’ve Been Doing Since the Mid-Eighties!

Editorial Illustration 1999-2002

One of my many hats at the Santa Barbara Independent was “resident cartoonist”. That’s not what they called me, but come Wednesday deadline, somebody would invariably ask me if I had any ideas for an illustration, and more often than not, I’d scribble something out. I had no professional equipment, just a pencil for sketching, crap-o copy paper for medium, and a series of Sharpies for inking. And all of one hour to do it. It’s surprising that the illustrations came out as good as they did.
Most of these illustrations accompanied the “Voices” section of the paper, where citizens would ramble on about politics. The opinions expressed in the illustrations were often not that of the writer!

Back in the sunny days before they stole elections. Still holds up, though.

Drawn to illustrate a pro-medical marijuana editorial.

For an editorial about the impending nurses’ strike (CNA is their union).

A very Jim Woodring-style egg.

Drawn for an Easter-themed Calendar pull-out.

Drawn for an editorial about, you guessed it, vegetarianism, but from a Christian point of view.

If we had only known there were differences between Gore and Bush…Still, Gore was like watching paint dry.

Bill Levy is one of Santa Barbara’s major developers, and arouses the wrath of many. Some would say he’s slightly megalomaniac. Every few months, there’d been an editorial about him. (He never did run for office, tho’).

Drawn for the Calendar section’s front page, promoting some sort of ’70s/’80s disco. The text is a tribute to Chris Ware.

I drew this in a hurry after skimming an article on a developer wanting to raze a house. The owners later wrote in to insist they had nothing to do with Orange County! (OC shorthand for rampant development…)

Drawn around the time that Bush was mostly known for his $300 tax break. I think I did well with the foreshortening, although I gave up by the time I got to the Republican elephant.

I took ages to get the bloody hand right. Remember the Bugs Bunny cartoon where he goes up against the wrestler? That’s this.

Blogger weirdness

Not that you were watching, but Blogger was suffering from Java-based weirdness the last four days and wouldn’t post anything. It’s back to normal now. Also!! The link to my Konishi site over on the right now works (I just discovered it never had), and the Squid Lord page has been updated.

Hebdomeros (and other writings) – Giorgio de Chirico

Exact Change, 1992
After slogging my way through these collective writings of de Chirico,
I have decided that out of all the surrealists and proto-surrealists, this man comes as close to my own artistic aesthetic.
Not that I would have known from the title work, a novella called “Hebdomeros,” the only novel he wrote, a completely mad and dreamlike work that did not seem to come from the same artist, the man who painted empty plazas full of long shadows, statues, and mannequins.
For “Hebdomeros” is full of people. No real characters, save the title man, who is a wilder version of de Chirico, and who is somewhat of a painter, an artist, but who travels through the novel in and out of linear time, dreamstate, and textual reality.
It’s a work comprised of long, unweildy sentences that shift subject matter while you read them. “Dreamlike” has never been a truer description, as scenery shifts (though confining itself to hotel rooms, seaside towns, countrysides, and piazzas) along with characters. Yet nothing in “Hebdomeros” is reminiscent of de Chirico’s paintings, which is quite notable–he didn’t see the work as an extension of his painterly concerns.
This is made obvious with the other works that make up the second half of this book from Exact Change. Here we have a two rough sketches, warm-ups for the novel, written in similar (and equally confusing) style; Three stories containing a character called “Monsieur Dudron,” in which the narrative is more traditional and where we are alerted of shifts in dreamstate; and then a series of attempts at a manifesto, where the more familiar elements of deChirico’s paintings finally turn up–the statues, the lonely square, the banners and flags seen over the tops of buildings, the allusions to Homer and Ulysses; and two critical appraisals, one of New York City, and one of the painterCourbet. DeChirico admired the realists, but was in search of realistic solutions to Nietzchian revelations (“Ecce Homo” being a favorite philosophic text). When deChirico describes his paintings, he adds sound, so next time you see those banners over his walls, there’s a flapping, cracking sound to be heard.
I share some of his feelings, particularly the “nostalgia of the infinite,” by which he means, I believe, that sense of sadness and mystery when looking at things far away or hidden behind a wall, such as his flags or passing trains.

Sometimes the skyline is blocked by a wall behind which rises the whistle of a locamotive, or the clank of a departing train: all the nostalgia of infinity is revealed to us behind the geometrical precision of the square.

My childhood was often spent in the backyard of my house wondering what lay beyond the high fence at the top of the hill that bordered our property. Of course, I could have taken the road up and around to discover that, but it would have been different. De Chirico understands the same thing: the train seen at a distance is different from the same train seen up close. He wants to recontextualize things, much like the later Surrealist and Pop Artists did: he thought it a splendid enigma to put furniture in the middle of roads, or forests. He toys with the idea of placing statues of men in bedrooms, or sitting in chairs looking out windows.
Soon after his classic period, de Chirico tried to become a classicist (figures!) and got denounced by the artists around him. He wound up signing his work “The Greatest Painter” and making counterfeits of his old work. Oh dear.
The book taxed my vocabulary, which I consider pretty broad. For your fun and pleasure, I include a short list of words I had to go look up.
Parthenonize, pedagogize, ephebogogize, megaron, ithyphallic, hypostases, telluric, peristyle, amphorae, cholagogic, “acquae calidae”, ogival, littoral, hygrometrically, clepsydra, catafalque, vernissage, Alpheus, Thermopylae, ephebes, lacustrine, “lares and penates”, “Rialto bridge”, Quiberon, boreal, Zouave, deliomaque, Dioscuri
He also mentions artists and poets I didn’t know:
Etienne Spartali, Pandolfo Colenuccio, Corot, Poussin, Louis Le Nain, Zrzavy
If I was paid to write this, I would use Merriam-Webster and link to all these, but in this world you’re on your own.

The Witches – Roald Dahl

Puffin, 1983
Here’s a secret about my married life:
Jessica likes to be read to. Something about my deep, sonorous (read: monotone) voice comforts her at bedtime and sends her right off. While she spends her own reading time either in magazines or on a few books (right now it’s some Buddhist text), we use the reading time to check out children’s literature. (They’re quick to get through, and fun to read out loud. Not like, say, Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections.)
It was a sad fact that I never read “Winnie-the-Pooh” until I read it to Jessica, although by that time I enjoyed all of its nuances and Milne’s effortless style.
I picked up “The Witches” the other day for 50 cents, and that became our new book.
First of all, this is a great book for reading out loud. With The Grand High Witch, parents and other readers can indulge in their vurrrrrrrst German accent, as Roald Dahl envisions a witch not as a cackling crone, but as a half-zombie She-Wolf of the SS. The witches’ grand plan to exterminate all children is not far indeed from Hitler’s “Final Solution,” and the mice/vermin parallel is well taken.
Dahl creates a hero who gets turned into a mouse half-way through and doesn’t get turned back into a boy. He very cleverly reverses the “coming of age” trope – by getting smaller and becoming unhuman, the hero grows up and realises his destiny. There’s also a penultimate chapter where the mouse-boy realises that he won’t live that long, being a mouse and all, but as he loves his dear old grandmamma, they will grow old together. It’s a weird, mortality-filled chapter that made Jessica ask, “Is this book really for kids?” (Don’t ask me, I’m still getting over the recent shock of my first read of The Velveteen Rabbit. Talk about traumatizing a child.)
Dahl is a devious genius, and his bile is well placed. There’s no coddling here, with witches not just seeing children as nuisances, but as things needing to be eradicated. There’s no witches with hearts of gold, or witches to be fooled, they are just there to kill children. That’s it. Refreshing, indeed.