Saturday, August 27, 2016

NEW BOOK EXPLORES A FASCINATING ASPECT OF CONTEMPORARY COMICS


Thanks to a recommendation from the ever-awesome comics legend Stephen Bissette, yours truly has been made aware of a new book exploring one of the more salutary developments in contemporary comicdom: the explosion, and ongoing influence, of ground-breaking, formula-exploding, taboo-shattering writers from the British Isles.

The book has a rather unwieldy title - The British Invasion: Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, and the Invention of the Modern Comic Book Writer - but don't let that deter you. As Bissette declared in a recent Facebook post: "it's a pretty brilliant book and spot-on. ... I can honestly say Greg's not only done his homework, he's synthesized it all into a concise, involving, flowing read that's so true to the experience of those years ... that I'm getting sensory flashbacks at times ... RECOMMENDED!"

I've gone ahead and ordered a copy for myself, and I'd love it if some of you did the same, so we could do some kind of book club type thing together and discuss it in a forum I'll create for us on Facebook.

If you're in the USA, kindly order your copy from this link, which will result in a few shekels being dropped into yer old pal Jerky's beggin' cup. Meanwhile, if you currently reside in the howling wilds of Canada, then kindly use this link, as I have recently fixed it so that my affiliate program works there now, too! I went through a bit of a hassle to arrange for this, so PLEASE, if you're gonna order this book, order it through my affiliate links!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ AUGUST 22, 2016


1. It should come as no surprise that the growing cohort of conservative movementarians trying to promote the "Cultural Marxism" conspiracy theory haven't got the first fucking clue what they're yammering about. But in case you've recently bumped into said aberrant ideation and were curious as to what all the hubbub was about, why not check out what an actual, bona fide Marxist has to say about the subject? Michael Acuña begins his excellent analytical and historical overview thusly:

Across the paleoconservative blogosphere, on every “libertarian” forum and racist webpage, a strange concept is faulted for the turmoil witnessed in North America and Europe today, as well as for the alleged breakdown of Western social mores. ‘Cultural Marxism’ is the name these courageous right-wing dissidents have assigned this corrosive force. 
So what exactly is cultural Marxism and how is it that so many ostensibly capitalist societies haven fallen victim to it? The narrative varies depending on the political leaning of the individual disseminating it, but its standard rendition is as follows: a sect of European intellectuals, disillusioned by the failure of orthodox Marxist parties to mobilize the proletariat into conflict with the bourgeoisie, came to the conclusion that the original Marxist formulation was incorrect. Western workers simply possessed too conservative a disposition for communism’s egalitarian rhetoric to appeal to them. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’s dialectical theory of capitalism’s internal contradictions generating a qualitatively higher mode of production—communism—was flawed. There were ideological obstacles preventing the economic synthesis from being realized. The solution to Marxism’s theoretical errors these thinkers arrived at was to replace class as the locus of struggle with culture. In other words, the traditional Marxist Klassenkampf was to be entirely replaced by a neo-Marxist Kulturkampf. 
These men, many of whom were psychoanalysts of Jewish descent (a fact of particular interest to fascists), came to be known as the ‘Frankfurt school’ due to their affiliation with the Institute for Social Research at Goethe University, located in Frankfurt, Germany. The subversive ideas this faction of assorted academicians and literati conjured up had a profound effect on Western intellectuals and eventually infected the minds of North America’s and Europe’s cultural elite via university indoctrination, the story goes on, thereby leading to the liberal social movements and various projects of social engineering observed today, e.g., feminism, LGBTQ rights, multiculturalism, and political correctness. To quote the late conservative political commentator Andrew Breitbart:
"We can call it cultural Marxism, but at the end of the day, we experience it on a day to day basis. By that I mean, a minute by minute, second by second basis. It’s political correctness and it’s multiculturalism." 
But how well does this chilling tale conform to reality? Not very. However, before describing the actual causes of the social maladies certain conservatives impute to ‘cultural Marxism,’ I believe it would be instructive to trace the origins of this conspiracy theory; for, in so doing, we shall discover that it is little more than the latest iteration of the right-wing’s ceaseless Red Scare effort. 
Let us begin at the beginning, with Karl Marx himself...
What follows is a carefully constructed, engagingly written, and convincingly definitive account of this patently ridiculous, reactionary meme. Also, be sure to read through the voluminous comments section, where Acuña makes a good faith effort to patiently engage with and educate an alt.right True Believer. The latter's increasingly desperate flailing in the face of an ideological opponent whose knowledge and basic intelligence so obviously eclipse his own comes close to being as revealing about the insidious core of the Current Crisis as Acuña's essay, itself.



2. Ladies and gentlemen, take a firm grip on your favorite religious fetish object, apply a fresh coating of drool-repellent aerosol spray on your anti-nightmare body pillow, and enter the world of DINILD TRIMP! Don't say I didn't try to warn you.


3. This one goes out to all my dungeon crawlin' homies. Whaddaya think, boys? Would our weekend-long sessions of AD&D have been more enjoyable if one of us had invested in a half-acre sized replica of the pseudo-medieval worlds of our vivid, sex-starved, teen-aged imaginations? I dunno... maybe yes, maybe no. Sure is impressive, though...

Sunday, August 14, 2016

SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ AUGUST 14, 2016


1. The New York Times Review of Books project/article entitled "Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart" - at upwards of 40,000 words in five chapters, it's really more of a free book than an article - is an amazingly civic-minded gift to the people of the United States and, indeed, the world at large. Editor Jake Silverstein explains:
This is a story unlike any we have previously published. It is much longer than the typical New York Times Magazine feature story; in print, it occupies an entire issue. The product of some 18 months of reporting, it tells the story of the catastrophe that has fractured the Arab world since the invasion of Iraq 13 years ago, leading to the rise of ISIS and the global refugee crisis. The geography of this catastrophe is broad and its causes are many, but its consequences — war and uncertainty throughout the world — are familiar to us all. Scott Anderson’s story gives the reader a visceral sense of how it all unfolded, through the eyes of six characters in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. Accompanying Anderson’s text are 10 portfolios by the photographer Paolo Pellegrin, drawn from his extensive travels across the region over the last 14 years, as well as a landmark virtual-reality experience that embeds the viewer with the Iraqi fighting forces during the battle to retake Falluja. 
It is unprecedented for us to focus so much energy and attention on a single story, and to ask our readers to do the same. We would not do so were we not convinced that what follows is one of the most clear-eyed, powerful and human explanations of what has gone wrong in this region that you will ever read.
Would it be overly dramatic to suggest that anyone who wishes to be well informed about the current realpolitik owes it to himself and to his fellow countrymen to not only read this thing from beginning to end, but also to get as many of his friends and neighbors to do so, as well? If so, so be it. I stand by that statement, and urge you all to read and share and help to spread.


2. Mark Ames, one of the intrepid sleuths behind NSFWCORP.com, has dug up a fascinating historical document: a Koch-funded article for REASON Magazine that purports to teach far-right "libertarians" how to woo (i.e. trick) liberals and lefties into coming over to their cause! It begins:
I wouldn't be the first to point out how embarrassingly easy it has been for rancid Koch libertarian front groups to convince those on the Left that they are all on the same team. As Salon writer Tom Watson wrote, the event is "fatally compromised by the prominent leadership and participation of the Libertarian Party and other libertarian student groups [who stand] in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat." 
What hasn't been revealed until now, however, is how the libertarians got so good at fooling their lefty marks. For that you have to look back 35 years, to an amazing series of articles in the Koch brothers' REASON magazine in which prominent libertarians lay out to a new generation of followers a playbook of "tricks" to fool earnest leftists, liberals and hippies into supporting their cause. 
If you really believe that these events are about promoting freedom and humanitarianism, you're going to be even more disturbed by what libertarians had to say about conning liberals in their more unguarded moments, before their "tricks" worked and they were able to pull off these big DC "strange bedfellows" events like clockwork. 
One of the most shocking strategy articles comes in a REASON article headlined "Marketing Libertarianism" written by Moshe Kroy, and published in the February 1977 issue.
The article is chock-a-block with eyebrow-raising admissions and nakedly mercenary libertarian evangelism of the type anyone unlucky enough to have ever had a friend going through an Ayn Rand phase will be all too familiar with. It's also pretty hilarious. Highly recommended!

*** 

3. There's trolling, there's epic trolling... and then there's Sam Hyde. The jagged, Satanic wit behind much of the more "problematic" output of Million Dollar Extreme - arguably the most potent comedic trio to emerge since the passing of The Three Stooges - delights in sowing confusion and discord wherever he goes, perhaps never so much so as when he posed as a finagled his way onto the stage at a TEDx event at Drexel University last year. His performance has become the stuff of legend, and with good reason. If you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for? Watch it here, now.

Friday, July 22, 2016

JOHN STEWART HIJACKS COLBERT'S LATE SHOW AND... WOW.

Sit back, get comfortable, and prepare to enjoy a nice thick slice of muscular liberal satire. 


SUGGESTED READING LIST ~ JULY 22, 2016


1. It's been over a week since an abortive coup attempt appeared to take place in the strategically pivotal nation of Turkey, and even though increasingly disturbing developments have been taking place on a seemingly hourly basis ever since, we still essentially don't know shit about what really happened.

Upon first learning of the coup, I took to Facebook to state my belief that not all democracies are equally democratic, and not all military coups are equally militaristic. I wrote that we might all soon be wishing that the Turkish coup had succeeded, and that all that was left to do was wait and see. 

Today, even some of the most mainstream journalistic sources are open to the possibility that President Erdogan and his increasingly tyrannical AK Party cronies launched this deadly, false flag coup themselves, in order to manufacture a pretext for a speeding up of their ongoing crackdown on any dissent or opposition, no matter how slight. 

Of course, the ever growing chorus of Vladimir Putin fanboys in the "alternative" news media are having none of it; for them, the failed coup was obviously launched by Americans terrified of the recent Russo-Turkish detente.

In any case, if you'd like to learn more about exiled Turkish billionaire cleric Fethullah Gulen - the man whom Erdogan and his cronies are accusing of being behind the coup - check out this mini-dossier I wrote on the subject over at our sister blog, Useless Eater, over five years ago. Tuns out it's still relevant!


2. Speaking of coups, counter-coups, and questionable parapolitical shenanigans, have you ever wondered what a humour-impaired Communist cultural critic might think of Star Wars? It starts off, as all good pseudo-intellectual takes on Star Wars must, with an explanation of Joseph Campbell's highly influential theory of the "monomyth", before proceeding thusly:
But all this assumes that Campbell’s story really is universal and absolute, something that precedes culture and ideology. Which it isn’t: it’s the product of an antisemite’s ecumenicalism, the kind of syncretic cultural milkshake that Umberto Eco describes as the first condition of fascism. 
Look at the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars, really look at them, and try to see anything like a radically democratic revolution against tyranny. What is the class composition of these rebels? Of the ones we know, there’s one member of a hereditary royal family, one petty criminal, one former ruler of a privately owned city, and one adopted child of rural landowners (and, possibly, slaveholders) who is also the scion to an ancient religious order of aristocratic knights. 
At the start of A New Hope, we hear that the Alliance has growing support within the Imperial Senate, and Imperial Senates aren’t usually very fond of proper revolutionaries. Consider the Alliance’s tactics. Every time we meet the rebels, they have built themselves a base on some deserted planet, where they’re stockpiling heavy arms. 
As any good student of Mao knows, a revolutionary movement can only succeed if it wins the trust of the people; holding territory is a game played by the State, not those trying to overthrow it. We never see the rebels being sheltered from Stormtroopers by grateful peasants (while they do ally with the Ewoks, it’s with a fully colonial sense of entitlement); we never see Alliance propaganda being passed around in secret by the oppressed; we never see any indication that this armed faction has any kind of popular mandate whatsoever. It’s not just infantile bourgeois ultraleftism — Blanquism in space. 
At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, we see for the first time a full Rebel Alliance fleet; vast blobby spaceships to rival the Empire’s. Aren’t warships expensive? Who’s funding these people? Consider that when we see that fleet, it’s positioned outside the Galaxy. There’s a name for groups like the Rebel Alliance. Not freedom fighters, but Contras, right-wing death squads.

Fun stuff, n'est ce pas? And if you thought the above was goofy, just wait until you get to the part where the author, Sam Kriss, declares his preference for the sequel trilogy!


3. And lastly for today, I am pleased to announce that the most brilliant satirical mind of the "fin de millennium" media milieu is, at long last, working on a new project: his second full-length film, after 2010's excellent and tragically under-appreciated Islamic terrorism satire, Four Lions. No word yet on the topic, but considering Morris' track record, it's pretty much guaranteed to be a work of genius.

Monday, July 11, 2016

AN UNLIKELY HYPOTHETICAL

If a hyper-advanced race of aliens came to earth and told us to assemble our species' greatest achievements so that they could use them to stand in judgement over us, I would be perfectly comfortable with including Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii in total, and "Saucerful of Secrets" in particular, among the prime exhibits in our favor.


If you have any suggestions for achievements and artifacts to include in this hypothetical collection in defense of humankind, please either e-mail them to me, or let us know in the comments section, below. I know it's annoying to sign up to YET ANOTHER online entity just to leave a lousy comment or two, but I'd like to include more polls and things making use of Blogspot's commenting function, so please take the time to sign up, okay? I know that there are scores - and sometimes hundreds - reading each post, and I'd like to see that reflected in comments activity.

MEDIAVORE // COMICS ~ DAN CLOWES' LATEST IS A MASTERPIECE


Alternative comics legend Daniel Clowes is nothing if not prolific, and his output generally falls into one of two categories: short form comedy and long form graphic novels that, while retaining some comedic elements, tend somewhat towards detached, ironic bathos. Patience, Clowes' latest long form narrative project, is by far the most impressive work he's produced in the latter category.

Without giving too many plot details away (I've seen many reviews of Patience that are chock full of ridiculously revealing spoilers), I can tell you that Clowes has crafted a deft blend of soft sci-fi time travel fantasy and idiosyncratic, multiple stream-of-consciousness character study. So if you've ever wondered what Back to the Future would be like if it had been directed by Todd Solondz, then this is the book for you.

For those of you without access to a quality neighborhood comics shop or alternative independent culture store, Patience may be purchased at a seriously discounted price from Amazon.com. Also, if you buy it via the provided link, yer old pal Jerky gets a few shekels tossed into his beggin' cup.

If you're looking for a book that highlights an entirely different aspect of Clowes' substantial talents, look no further than his formally innovative misanthropic gut-buster WILSON, which continues to be my favorite thing that Clowes has ever done, and one of my favorite graphic novels of all time. And yes, purchasing it from the above link helps to keep me blogging.

SUGGESTED READING (WATCHING) LIST ~ JULY 11

Sometimes, it's easier to watch than it is to read. Something about the information getting injected directly into your neocortex or something. Anyway, sit back, relax, and watch. - YOPJ
1. First off, here's a quite amazing little allegorical animation from German artist Emanuel Strixner. No words are necessary to convey its timeless message.


2. Here is the story of Alex Landau's 2009 traffic stop in Denver, which resulted in... well, just watch this animated version of his version of the events that took place. I have looked into this incident, myself, and have found Landau's credibility to be far greater than that of the officers involved in this disgusting case of cut-and-dried brutality.



3. And finally, thanks to Birth Movies Death for bringing Jon Lajoie's latest, A New Beginning - described as "the perfect love letter to slasher films" - to all our attentions. It is most definitely a thing of beauty, and perfectly captures a piece of my own childhood.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

OUR OLD PAL MARC BELL GETS BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2016 COVER!

Buy it now from this link, so that I can earn a few shekels in my beggin' cup! In fact, make ALL your Amazon purchases via links from my page, to help keep me in Caesar Salad and licorice whips!