Archive for July, 2009

Hello all–

Just a quick post to let you know about my fiction blog, which will feature weekly pieces set in Montreal.

hope that will interest some of you




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Barking the Obvious

I hope we can all agree that “graphic novel” is the dumbest term ever coined. Since when does the word novel connote “quality”? (Which is presumably what these twits are aiming for. I mean, novels have always had a graphic component, no? We can see them, after all.) Most novels are pretty goddamned horrible, aren’t they? Wacousta is a novel for christ’s sake.

In fact, from now on, I urge all pretentious douches in the comics world to rally to the banner of “Graphic Wacoustas.”

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Movie Quiz

Filched from the estimable Ed Howard.

This ain’t Cailloux de cinema, but there’ll be a lot of film talk here… best to establish that early on.

1) Second-favorite Stanley Kubrick film.

The Killing–Tim Carey goes to the race-track: a tour-de-force demonstration of what the semantic availability of hate speech can do

2) Most significant/important/interesting trend in movies over the past decade, for good or evil.

Paul Thomas Anderson

3) Bronco Billy (Clint Eastwood) or Buffalo Bill Cody (Paul Newman)?

no opinion, I’m afraid

4) Best Film of 1949.

Tempted to concur with Ed on The Set-Up, but I think I’ll go with Nick Ray’s They Live By Night. It somehow exemplifies the best of what 1940s AND 1950s Hollywood had to offer.

5) Joseph Tura (Jack Benny) or Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore)?

Love them both–but Jaffe gets my vote.

6) Has the hand-held shaky-cam directorial style become a visual cliché?

Can’t we just say that it has entered the lexicon of film?

7) What was the first foreign-language film you ever saw?

French films aren’t foreign to me, so they don’t count. I think mine might have been Yojimbo too, Ed. I had heard that it was an adaptation of Hammett…

8) Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) or Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre)?

Well, Peter Lorre is awesome–but I’m not sure we need either of these two characters.

9) Favorite World War II drama (1950-1970).

Attack! (thanks to The Siren for jogging my memory on this one)

10) Favorite animal movie star.


11) Who or whatever is to blame, name an irresponsible moment in cinema.

It’s not a good idea to think about the treatment of animals in ANY film made prior to the last couple of decades.

12) Best Film of 1969.

Medium Cool

13) Name the last movie you saw theatrically, and also on DVD or Blu-ray.

Theatre: World’s Greatest Dad (pretty great–gonna write about it, at some point, I think)/DVD (well, avi) Three Wise Girls–starring Jean Harlow, Mae Clarke and Marie Prevost

14) Second-favorite Robert Altman film.

Maybe The Player? The Long Goodbye is by far my favourite.

15) What is your favorite independent outlet for reading about movies, either online or in print?

Some really great blogs out there.

16) Who wins?Angela Mao or Meiko Kaji?

I wish I could tell you

17) Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei) or Olive Neal (Jennifer Tilly)?

Don’t make me talk about how much I love Marisa Tomei. It’s not seemly.

18) Favorite movie that features a carnival setting or sequence.

Carnival of Souls. Or Nightmare Alley.

19) Best use of high-definition video on the big screen to date.

Inland Empire all the way. Grace Zabriskie on film wouldn’t have been nearly as unsettling.

20) Favorite movie that is equal parts genre film and a deconstruction or consideration of that same genre.

Agree with Ed again. I firmly expect Showgirls to destroy patriarchy someday.

21) Best Film of 1979.

Apocalypse Now

22) Most realistic and/or sincere depiction of small-town life in the movies.

hmm… Blue Velvet?

23) Best horror movie creature (non-giant division).

Robert Blake in Lost Highway.

24) Second-favorite Francis Ford Coppola film.

Peggy Sue Got Married. This thing needs a cult.

25) Name a one-off movie that could have produced a franchise you would have wanted to see.

Kings Row

26) Favorite sequence from a Brian De Palma film.

Wow–the kiss at the end of Obsession?

27) Favorite moment in three-strip Technicolor.

The cafe Hohenzollern (and Deborah Kerr) in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.

28) Favorite Alan Smithee film.

no experience with these

29) Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) or Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau)?

don’t like either of these–although I often do like Matthau

30) Best post-Crimes and Misdemeanors Woody Allen film.

Almost all of them are good-to-great, but Deconstructing Harry is probably the tops.

31) Best Film of 1999.

Yeah–Eyes Wide Shut.

32) Favorite movie tag line.

“One of the three great love stories of all time.” (Mitchell Leisen’s To Each His Own–1946)

33) Favorite B-movie western.

never watch these

34) Overall, the author best served by movie adaptations of her or his work.

Cornell Woolrich–although Woolrich also should be read by all.

35) Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) or Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard)?

Both great. Hepburn gets the nod.

36) Favorite musical cameo in a non-musical movie.

La Marseillaise scene in Casablanca.

37) Bruno (the character, if you haven’t seen the movie, or the film, if you have): subversive satire or purveyor of stereotyping?

Both, no?

38) Five film folks, living or deceased, you would love to meet.

Barbara Stanwyck, William Dieterle, Carl Th. Dreyer, Sofia Coppola, Seymour Cassel

that was fun!


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So what’s it all about, Anagramsci?


Friendship… character… ethics… no… wait… that’s Johnny Caspar’s blog.

But I care about that stuff too.

I’ve got an idea that criticism should cozy up to its subjects. Dive into the material and come out dripping with cogency. I treat my texts like I treat my friends–taking them seriously without TAKING THEM SERIOUSLY. I read/watch/listen to things that involve me in a conspiracy of fun (I’ll always be grateful to Steven Grant for that term; and if you want to know what it means–or, at least, what I mean by it–just picture the opposite of escapism). And I write about them to enlarge the cabal. Sincerity, purged of naïveté–that’s the goal.

Irony is a lovin’ thing–and the only sound basis for community.

So c’mon–let’s have lects.


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Angela Szczepaniak’s Unisex Love Poems files alphabetical suit against a whole host of typographical errors that sentence us to symptomatic reading, through typecast eyes. By hailing their audience from a number of sites that are just around the bend of contemporary cultural plausibility, Szczepaniak’s narratroopers get the drop on some of the most deeply entrenched fonts of folly on the phoneme farm we’re all so damned committed to.

This series of riposte cards from the edge re-cooks the cookbooks, restores manual control over the dating conventions and puts the [sic] in the forensics that govern our daily lives. Of course, Szczepaniak knows better than to waste her imagination on a world completely free of these (and other, itchier, twitchier) irritants. For better or worse, the dietary, romantic and juridical models that we’ve inherited are here to stay.

The situation, the author appears to be saying, calls for rash action–and that’s exactly what we get, when Slug of apartment 5d begins running a diagnostic check on the brailled blemishes (each one a perfect letter h) that have torsaded his torso. Assuming that something within the building is responsible for this calligraphic callousness, he leaves no dust mote unturned–and no door un-knocked. The neighbors prove singularly unsympathetic to his quest, but he does make one ally of sorts: Butterfingers–the woman in apt. 4f–whose gossamered glossolalia provides an interesting verbal analog for his dermatological condition.

Together, these two chart a possibly-unnavigable course across a sea of experiences composed of equal parts affliction and affection. The author salts their tale with an extraordinary array of textual urchins–shuffling in excerpts from his-and-hers Victorian advice tomes (suitable to any occasion–from a tea party to the End of Days), affable spiders (and their less charming bites), character-acted cartoons, carnal recipes (for the likes of “Stomach Butterflies,” “Honeycombed Heart” and “Tied Tongue”–each one handsomely illustrated) and a lively team of 3-inch tall lawyers (Spitz and Spatz), whose petal-to-your-mettle talk will absolutely floor you. This last pair actually brings a whole raft of other concerns in their wake–including a memorably absurd take on (or take-down of) Lockean possessive individualism. Their dynamic relationship also generates a welter of–what?–wisdom?–that might answer to the worst of the distress caused by the welts (upon Slug’s person and Butterfingers’ versin’) in question.

In fact, by the time you reach the end of Unisex Love Poems, your guess will be as good as mine as to whose story has been interpolated into whose. This inventive study of life in the imperfect tense and the beatifics of bickering will chuff that kind of guff right out of your mush. You’ll be too busy preparing for that big date in court. Bring flowers. You never know whom they might impress.

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We’ll begin with overstatement–just so you know it’s me:

Grant Morrison’s  entire career has been a sustained meditation upon the problem of free will.

In the boggiest regions of the oeuvre (i.e. The Filth), the very notion of a “self” is boiled down into a kind of broth salted by otherness. These narratives strain out those chunks of essentialism that have choked so many thinkers (leaving many a bouillabasketcaisse in their wake), culminating in a briny kiss on the lips that you have the gall to call your own.

In some ways, Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye adopts a similar course, leading the reader on a merry chase through a whole bunch of “comfort zones” that are half sanctuary and half sham. The sets are rearranged with such speed (and just enough convenient sloppiness) that none of them ever quite seems “normal”–but these are habitable worlds, just like ours (I’m talking about Canada here–obviously, it’s quite conceivable that your world isn’t bearable at all).

Viewed through this interpretive lens, the Seaguy saga reads like an amusing game of solitaire in which the author rambles through the deck, reorganizing the cards he’s placed on the table until good ol’ Seaguy turns up in a suit that fits neatly onto Queen She-Beard.

Make no mistake about it–that is one thing that’s going on in this piece.

However, there’s much more (or, more accurately, much less) to this story than that. It’s almost a regression to naive existentialism. Almost. Somehow, Morrison has found a way to tell a classic liberation story without crashing into the ontological wall that invariably rises up to knock all sense out of these tales. And, as usual, he achieves the impossible by burrowing into the hoary conventions of the genre.

His weapons of choice on this adventure?

1. the costume

2. the binary code that powers all superhero tales:  “team-up” or fight

The first trope blossoms into something quite wonderful when the book’s protagonist (in the guise of the bull-dresser “El Macho”) sheds his clothing in issue two, ending the confrontation with his raging adversary. The scene delivers all of the delirious charm of “Selfhood–dramatically regained,” without tying the tin can of Monolithic Identity to the moment. It’s an old saw that the clothes make the man, but Morrison and Cameron Stewart prove that a lack of clothes can unmake (and disarm) a world (without, of course, freeing anyone from the need to step into another–equally spurious, but perhaps more congenial–environment and identity). Nakedness, in Seaguy, isn’t revelatory, or REAL–but it can hold up a mirror to an equally contingent Empire (the episteme has no clothes).

The second runs through the entire piece from the beginning of volume one–and of course Morrison is always on the side of a team-up, whenever one is possible. The book is an endless parade of decisions about friends and foes (Carl Schmitt calls this the only real political decision)–made, revised and re-made (with Death the only really consistent enemy)–all leading up to the climactic (and very Dickensian–as Morrison often is) call (which is not made by the supposed protagonist, but by She-Beard… kind of makes you wonder if we’ve been following the wrong story all along, doesn’t it? In any event, by letting go of her sword, she proves herself every bit the equal of the man who dropped his pants in the arena… and if this is really a story about killing machismo, she obviously had the most work to do).

Great stuff, all around.

More soon. Comics. Movies. Poetry. Fiction. Music. Whatever.

Count on it.


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