Friday, October 30, 2009
  Bob Dylan Comics

November 16 is the publication date of the English language edition of Bob Dylan Revisited featuring visual interpretations of Dylan's lyrics by more than a dozen top international illustrators. Below are some preview pages. The clip is from a Canadian television series, Quest (February 1, 1964). François Avril's site (with the "Girl of the North Country" roughs) is here.

Bob Dylan Revisited contents:

"Blowin' in the Wind" interpreted by Thierry Muraty
"A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" interpreted by Lorenzo Mattotti
"I Want You" interpreted by Nicolas Nemiri
"Girl of the North Country" interpreted by François Avril
"Lay, Lady, Lay" interpreted by Jean-Claude Götting
"Positively 4th Street" interpreted by Christopher
"Tombstone Blues" interpreted by Bézian
"Desolation Row" interpreted by Dave McKean
"Like a Rolling Stone" interpreted by Alfred (drawings), Raphaëlle Le Rio, Maël Le Maé (scenario) and Henri Meunier (color)
"Hurricane" interpreted by Gradimir Smudja
"Blind Willie McTell" interpreted by Benjamin Flao
"Knockin' on Heaven's Door" interpreted by Jean-Philippe Bramanti
"Not Dark Yet" interpreted by Zep

"Blowin' in the Wind"
"A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"

"I Want You"
"Girl of the North Country"

I'm a-wonderin' if she remembers me at all.
Many times I've often prayed
In the darkness of my night,
In the brightness of my day.

So if you're travelin' in the north country fair,
Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline,
Remember me to one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine.
"Lay, Lady, Lay"

"Positively 4th Street"

"Desolation Row"

"Like a Rolling Stone"

"Blind Willie McTell"

"Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
"Not Dark Yet"

Also see "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" by Flemish cartoonist Kim Duchateau:

The Black Crowes in Moscow (1991)

Unfortunately, the creative highs seen above must conclude with a sad footnote on the downward spiral of Dylan music critic/biographer, PKD authority, Crawdaddy creator and past pal Paul Williams, who soared in print with illuminations like lightning over water. I remember the day he pointed out to me the "time differential" pun he viewed as the key sentence in The Crying of Lot 49: "She knew that the sailor had seen worlds no other man had seen if only because there was that high magic to low puns, because DT's must give access to dt's of spectra beyond the known sun, music made purely of Antarctic loneliness and fright."

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009
  The BigDog Whisperer

Who let the bots out? Boston Dynamics

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Friday, October 23, 2009
  Hitchcock #4: Are we having font yet?

This is the Saul Bass font. To download, go to Typographica. Joel Gunz uses the Saul Bass font for the heading of his Alfred Hitchcock Geek blog of critical commentary.

In the trailer for Psycho, the woman screaming in the shower is not Janet Leigh. It's Vera Miles.

Barefoot Cassandra compares the photos in Vanity Fair's Hitchcock tribute with the original scenes. Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem appeared in this recreation of Rear Window, but there's a discrepancy. Before you click for Cassandra's explanation, can you tell what's wrong with this picture?

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Sunday, October 18, 2009
  Leon and Clara

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Friday, October 16, 2009
  Death of Newspapers #9: Grafix fades out
Leading cartoonists once had their own Sunday pages to fill, and many people bought newspapers for the comic strips. So the newspapers made the strips small and then even smaller. Why? Instead of improving, color printing became inferior. New strips by people who could not draw were introduced. The logic is elusive, leading to this question: Why didn't the National Cartoonists Society do something about the impending doom?

When Roy Crane launched Buz Sawyer in November 1943, no one thought newspapers would fade away. Here are the first five Buz Sawyer Sunday pages (running from November 28 to December 26, 1943). In the dailies, Buz went on adventures with his sidekick Roscoe Sweeney. (Why is Roscoe spelled two different ways?) In the Sunday strips, Sweeney was the star. Instead of a single Sunday situation, Crane kept the story continuity going, and despite the passage of seven days, readers were so involved that they had no problem remembering previous weeks.

End of an era footnote: While newspapers die, it was announced last month that Grafix Duoshade and Unishade papers are being discontinued due to a decline in demand, says Grafix prez Hayley Prendergast. These papers were long used by editorial cartoonists for shading, and Roy Crane used this product effectively back in the days when it was known as Craftint. Cleveland's Craftint Manufacturing Company sold the process to the Ohio Graphic Arts Systems, also in Cleveland. Then in 1990, Ohio Graphic Arts changed their name to Grafix.

Crane's artful application of Craftint gave his Wash Tubbs and Buz Sawyer strips a unique three-dimensional look. The process involved brushing a chemical solution over an inked drawing to develop shading lines embedded in the paper. A separate solution brought out cross-hatching. Crane used this for watery wave effects, smoke clouds, atmospheric perspective and leafy jungles. He effortlessly turned panels into miniature b/w paintings, and no one else doing comic strips ever equaled his Craftint creations.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009
  Françoise Mouly on The New Yorker's triple cover

October 12 covers (The Food Chain) by Dan Clowes, Zohar Lazar and Mark Ulriksen

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009
  Rex Morgan's #1 fan

Joseph Deschenes has saved every Rex Morgan M.D. comic strip for 61 years. Created by psychiatrist Nicholas Dallis, the strip was launched May 10, 1948, illustrated by Marvin Bradley with backgrounds by Frank Edgington. Others who worked on the strip were Woody Wilson, George Evans, Frank Springer, Fernando Da Silva, Tony DiPreta, Graham Nolan, Fran Matera, Andre Le Blanc and Alex Kotzky.

Brazilian illustrator Fernando Da Silva at work on Rex Morgan, M.D. in 1982.

William Burroughs story about Rx Morgan (not Rex) and Joan Gail (not June Gale).

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Saturday, October 10, 2009
  Real-life Horror #3: Anti-Maim
Halloween approaches, which means it's time once again for another installment in our Real-life Horror series.

Picture a one-story wooden high school building in East Texas during the early 1950s. While reading science fiction magazines in the study hall, I would occasionally glance at the wart on my right thumb. I had tried various ointments and rumored remedies, but nothing worked. The wart remained.

The chemistry class was an oddity, taught by a young man with a lot of enthusiasm but not much knowledge of chemistry. He would make an impressive entrance with a big smile and say something like, "Hey! This is quite an experiment we will be doing today. Doc Hawkins and I did it last night, and it actually works!"

The chemistry classroom was way at the back of the building, and in the rear of that classroom was a small storeroom, never locked, where the chemicals and other equipment were kept. When I saw the giant-sized jug of sulphuric acid, I immediately knew it could be the solution to my wart problem. But I was baffled by the delivery system. How could I get the acid from jug to wart without becoming a member of the Nub Club? The jug was too large and heavy to tilt without splashing sulphuric acid around.

One day, when no one was in that area of the building, I went into the storeroom and stared at the jug until the answer came to me. I walked outside through the back door of the building and found a long thin wooden stick. Back in the storeroom, I unscrewed the cap as sulphuric fumes wafted free. I inserted the stick and pulled it out. Did I simply put the stick on my thumb? No. That seemed unwise, as I could imagine the acid continuing through the wart and dissolving the bone in my thumb.

By 1954, I had read many EC Comics, so I considered myself fairly expert re body mutilation. Instead of holding the stick over my thumb, I held my thumb over the stick. I very lightly touched the acid to the wart for a fraction of a second and quickly pulled my thumb away. I capped the jug and threw the stick outside. The self-operation was 100% successful. The wart shriveled into nothingness and vanished, with only a tiny trace of a scar.

The phrase "Nub Club" is sometimes heard in Vernon, Florida, a town of the Walking Maimed. According to Ken Dornstein in his book Accidentally, on Purpose: The Making of a Personal Injury Underworld in America (1996), almost 50 men in Vernon and nearby areas collected insurance for faked accidents and self-mutilation. Insurance investigator John J. Healy offered a horrific description of desperation in Vernon that reads like a Graham Ingels EC story: "To sit in your car on a sweltering summer evening on the main street of Nub City, watching anywhere from eight to a dozen cripples walking along the street, gives the place a ghoulish, eerie atmosphere."

Another portrait of life in Vernon came in 1984, as described in 2007 by Thomas Lake in "Dismembered Again" (St. Petersburg Times, September 2, 2007):

On June 20, 1984, according to the Associated Press, the Vernon City Council was discussing the firing of the town's only police officer. As a former schoolteacher spoke in protest, council president Narvel Armstrong gaveled him down and adjourned the meeting.

The next part would be hard to believe if weren't on tape. A cameraman for WMBB in Panama City happened to be there, and his footage shows Armstrong, then 46, a slight woman with a white blouse and a helmet of brown hair, walk past another woman and backhand her in the head. You see a barefoot young man join the fight. He pins the teacher against a wall and stands over him. The teacher raises his hands to shield his head, but it does not work. The barefoot man's right fist is tireless. He clocks the teacher six times before the camera turns away. Later you see the teacher's face covered in blood.

You see an older man fighting too. He is thick at the middle, balding, wearing khakis. He punches a woman while the barefoot man holds her arm. He assists in the thrashing of the teacher. You see his right hand whooshing through the air, connecting with flesh, and you look for his left hand but it is gone. In its place is a metal hook.

Errol Morris, who made the classic documentary Vernon, Florida (1981), commented on the town's insurance-obsessed inhabitants, "They literally became a fraction of themselves to become whole financially." Morris originally arrived in Vernon to film the story of mutilations and loss limbs, but according to the biography at his website, the film "had to be retooled when his subjects threatened to murder him."

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009
  Half-century synchronicity

In Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951) James Mason portrays Hendrick van der Zee, the Flying Dutchman. (Get it? van der Zee=fantasy) With Giorgio de Chirico-styled imagery beautifully captured by cinematographer Jack Cardiff and Man Ray as the film's still photographer, the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum commented, "I think it could even be argued that this movie is the supreme encounter between Surrealism and Hollywood."

I first saw Pandora and the Flying Dutchman on March 9, 1952. So I was somewhat surprised by the scene in the film where Pandora Reynolds (Ava Gardner) asks what day it is and is told it is March 9. That may have been the first time I ever gave any thought to synchronicity.

There are three dates given in the film, March 9 ("the ninth day of the third month," says Pandora), September 3 ("the third day of the ninth month") and August 20, 1930.

A few months ago, I received this email from my brother on August 21: "I was watching this 1951 movie yesterday via Netflix. Ava Gardner is at a car race on the beach in Spain. Large banner for the race with the date in large letters: August 20, 1930. The odds were 365 to 1 that I would watch that movie on August 20th." In a later email he added that August 20 is "a date I celebrate every year as the anniversary of my release from active duty in the Air Force."

In this clip, Pandora swims out to Hendrick's yacht, and the two talk about coincidence.

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Friday, October 02, 2009
  What if we are all robots--only we don't know it?

This is Milton Glaser's poster for the Woodstock Film Festival, ongoing right now. In fact, streaming live at 4pm ET today is a panel discussion, "Redesigning Humanity -- The New Frontier," moderated by bioethicist James J. Hughes, including Ray Kurzweil, 2B film exec producer Martine Rothblatt and author Wendell Wallach, a discussion related to the science fiction film 2B.

The panel discussion explores how AI, nanotech, genetic engineering and other technologies will allow human beings to transcend the limitations of the body and fundamentally change the world over the coming 50 years. The film 2B portrays a decaying world on the cusp of great transformation. When the world's first transhuman is created by a renegade corporate CEO and bioscientist, the foundations of society's beliefs are threatened in a transhuman world where man merges with technology.

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Masquerade of the albino axolotls

My Photo

is the editor of Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood (2003), reviewed by Paul Gravett.

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