Archive for the ‘Saints and Inspirations’ Category
Her passing was shocking, ripped a hole in our hearts, “My heart is a blast site” Leela said. A friend offered, “Rosalie opened a capacious space in your hearts” – capacious, capacity. I get it.
We had just moved from New York City to Gainesville, Florida, in search of a simpler, less stressful life. Rosalie loved, absolutely loved it here. I will tell more of this story some other day.
Leela and I will be spending time traveling, first to the Golden Willow Retreat in New Mexico, for people grieving and suffering from loss. Leela first heard about this on the radio show Snap Judgment, when the founder of the retreat told his story of losing his wife, then his mother and children all successively. That show was broadcast on my birthday earlier this year.
After a return to Gainesville, which we too, love and are committed to staying and working in, we’re going to spend a week in Hawaii, where we’ve been offered a small free artist’s cottage in Makawao, Maui, at the Hui No`eau Visual Arts Center. This is a place we taught at when Leela was pregnant in 2009, and it is where we were happiest during those first 9 months. It also gave us the kick we believed to move to a more beautiful place and to start a school and center dedicated to making art.
In Maui, we’ll scatter Rosalie’s ashes there in the ocean. I always said she was a water spirit. I still believe it.
We’ve had an outpouring of generosity and love from you all. We have cards and emails and postings of all kinds still to open and read; the deluge of support and love from you all has been our greatest strength.
We certainly didn’t wish it would take a tragedy to remind us that we are loved among our friends, and even strangers, but reminded we have been. We thank you so deeply for your words, contributions, prayers. All that was sent our way helped bolster us, strengthen us in this time when we were so deeply deeply in pain.
Leela and I have been together on a long path. Suddenly diverted, shocking, terrible, but the path out is still forward. In the darkest times, your support meant everything.
We are feeling a lot of bruised and conflicting emotions throughout all of this, but one thing has remained consistent: our gratitude towards the people who reached out to us. We honestly could not, and can not, make it through without you.
Love each other, and thanks.
If you ever met Rosalie Lightning, keep her in your hearts, and send us your fond stories or reflections. She was special. We miss her immensely.
Alright, this is where I gush like everyone else. Nothing original here. Leela and I have just returned from Maui where we taught in Makawao for 10 days and ravenously visited the rest of the island in our free time.
It’s paradise. Maui’s the first place for which I want to drag out that term, throw it around and see if it fits. It does.
The place is so full of life, of green and moisture and ocean and streams and lovely birds and wild-looking delicious fruits. It’s got wild chickens (see right (or is that one some sort of pheasant?)), lovely people, a defunct volcano (2 actually), hundreds of microclimates (including types of desert, tundra, rainforest, etc.), great coffee, silence, color, a love of art, the 4th best observatory on the planet (off-limits to the public), ranching, rodeos, plein-air art festivals, hula, keiki, craters, cattle, sugar cane everywhere, mangoes to die for, dragon fruit, glorious avocados,folk-art, giant trees, zen monks, taiko, pork-in-the-dirt, spam sushi, surfer car rental places, a long and fascinating history and tropical fish that will basically swim up to your cheek and kiss you in your pores, as if you needed one more reason to begin sobbing from the beauty of it all.
And the people are wonderful.
Hello to the fabulous Kelly McHugh, Caroline who runs the Hui, her wild and hugely interesting family, and to Maggie, Nathalie (Yay Nathalie), Keri, Miguel and Miguel, Lana, all the great students and the many others I’ve no doubt forgotten or whose names I can’t spell. I doubt anyone on Maui is so gauche as to google alert their own name, but in case Maggie Sutrov is listening, hello Maggie! Here is a link of her in the act painting her most recent splendid view of the island. (See bottom.)
And Travis Fristoe, if you go to Maui, you have a coffee waiting for you at HAZ BEANZ in Pai’a. They’re only open 7am – 1 pm so go early and then go sit with the sleepy dog next door.
I reviewed Ron Rege’s AGAINST PAIN in the latest Comics Journal, #298.
For complicated reasons, what they printed was an unedited draft, as I hadn’t finished writing it. Nonetheless, it has the basics of what I wanted to say. So do the opposite of what Jeff Bridges says in “The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go“, and don’t read it for my style!
(He implores a character to read his Joycean epic “for his style, man!” It’s a charming, stupid moment.)
There is this moment I think about all the time from The Young Ones. The Young Ones was an ensemble comedy TV show from the early 1980s on BBC about 4 horrible college students living together in squalor who hate each other. Vivian, the house “punk” has devised a trick involving a fake finger and a kitchen knife. The other three roomates are hollering amongst themselves, while Vivian is shouting over them, trying to get their attention, wildly brandishing his kitchen knife, screaming “Watch my trick you bastards!”
That’s it. That’s the moment. For some reason, this image resonates with me, sings in me, stops me in my tracks and makes me smile sometimes. I don’t know why. I don’t need to know why.
But if I think I about it, I understand: It echos my need for attention, and my glee in silly grotesqueries, and my delight in being brazen and especially in demanding that you want something from people. Something about those qualities make me love this moment- this dramatized, actualized, manifestation of those themes in my life. I am haunted by the Jon Lewis image above for the same reason, I think.
In fact, when I look at the last 2 1/2 years of my comic output, I now realize this was the governing theme: trying to be heard. No wonder these images speak to me so much.
We all experience images from narratives this way. There are always moments that sticks with us, for reasons we may uncover later.
I asked a couple friends for their “images that sing” and here’s what I heard.
One friend says he always remembers a moment from a 40s-era Dick Tracy comic strip, where The Brow is being squashed by a Spike Machine. The brow is desperately crying: “Oww. Somebody stop the spike machine.” Another friend said that an image from the movie The Shining always haunts her, of the Shelly Duval character dragging a knocked down out Jack Nicholson character down the hall and locking him into a food closet.
The first image is about pain, oppression, helplessness, and a desire for connection. The second, about empowerment after feeling victimized by someone you love.
—————“DON’T ANALYZE!” HOGWASH!—————
I’ve heard that people think it’s dangerous to analyze such connections, and that there’s a magic in not knowing how certain connections work. I don’t buy it. First: emotion will always work faster than analysis. Second: there will always be new things to be moved by. Third: let yourself be moved by the understanding, too.
Look at Kiki and Herb. Kiki and Herb are a faux-torch song duo who perform as if they are on a reunion tour of sorts. Their supposed heyday was decades before and now Kiki; damaged, drunken, spiteful and absolutely, desperately human sits on the piano basically dying, telling old stories and singing cover songs.
They perform a version of the 80’s hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart” which is quite moving, a little funny, and desperate. The final minute or so of the song is monstrously powerful. A crescendo has been building for minutes, Kiki is now riffing on the original’s “turn around bright eyes” motif. Kiki is quoting The Byrds, Joni Mitchell and louder and louder, she ends by screaming, yowling Yeats poetry (with Herb like a lost sailor shouting his background parts into the storm of Kiki’s desperation) “The falcon cannont hear the falconer… Surely the second coming is at hand…”, riffing more, “Turn around…. turn around… don’t turn your back on me… don’t turn your back on Kiki!!! Kiki loves you! Kiki needs you! Kiki would die for you!!!”
All this crazy manic energy has just coalesced, and you realize, the decades old “turn around” of the pop hit has been transmutated. Now its a plea: “Turn around, come back. TURN AROUND, STAND STILL AND BE LOVED BY ME GODDAMIT.”
Kiki -and if anyone is a falcon who can’t hear the falconer, it’s her- is crying for you to believe in her transformation, her second coming. She is turning and turning, and transforming and transforming, watching you walk away, but she won’t have it .TURN AROUND! TURN AROUND! The song ends with her demanding to have her love accepted. DON’T TURN YOUR BACK ON ME! KIKI WOULD DIE FOR YOU!
It took me dozens of listens to this song at full volume to realize all this. It gets more powerful each time I hear it, and the more I decode, the more it moves me to tears…
And of course, this moment too, is about being heard, like most of the moments that are moving me right now.
What are your Images That Sing? What are they about? Pay attention to those, like anything you attend to, it will grow. More will appear, and they will strengthen your own work. DON’T TURN YOUR BACK ON ME!
PART 1 of an article in progress.
There is a book by Yoshiharu Tsuge that I have never read, called in French- “L’homme Sans Talent” -The Man With No Talents. I’ve seen it in French and its original Japanese. My French being awful and my Japanese non-existent, I have barely penetrated this world, but I am absolutely obsessed with this above image and what I can read of the story. I’ve gone to friends’ houses, I’ve sought out this image so I can just stare at it, like a 3 year old transfixed by a scary doll or damaged stuffed animal; I’m obsessed with a simulacrum of a human.
I stare at it. Who is this man selling stones? What brings a cartoon man to this point in his life? Why is he lying like that, in that strange position, and composed of those scratchy short lines? I gaze at this drawing and try to answer those questions on my own. I look, ask and imagine. And then I realize: what Tsuge has created with this simple panel is a space in my heart for a new story to appear.
And when I look at this man without talent I know one thing, because my spirit knows about a story: that some other character or object or beast from this same linefield will intrude upon this character’s world and story. Some other beast must emerge to confront in a new way, this scratched, sketched-out man. It will probably be some visual and immediate thing, but it could come from his own memories (full of other creatures and things, no doubt) or his own concerns- newly manifest from the alchemy of his own thoughts. A beast in spirit, a beast-thought. But something will emerge from the linefield to become story.
Forcing myself through this story, in a new language of lines, light and shadow and little (computerized) French squiggles, I’m propelled to slow down and immerse myself in the meaning. I’m in the perfect frame of mind to take in artwork: immersed in form and content, slowing down, perceptions open, looking for meaning. This new language IS the linefield. The linefield is about finding meaning, sometimes found whether you search for it or not.
Trying to read Tsuge in French is like trying to read Rege in english. Puzzling and troublesome, yes, but something is shimmering and calling out for attention, suggesting meaning where you might have thought you just saw a drawing, a doodle, or an tiny unimportant foreign word. In Rege’s Against Pain, or in a slow-moving master work translated into a unfamiliar language, every millimeter seems to speak.
The first story (or chapter?) begins on page 5 of the volume itself (I’ll use that method of numbering from now on) and is a title page. Along with the title, “Le Marchand de Pierres”- we see a landscape in a ceramic pot. The shine and man-creafted shape tells us it’s ceramic, but set in there, a landscape of streams and crevices and plateaus, is it a rock? Atop that, the silhouette of a man (I think, from the broad shoulders) in a hat, seated still. Is this a real landscape and a normal sized man? Or a small rock and a tiny, tiny abstract person? Anyway, it’s totemistic- it’s inviting us into the story.
Page 6- Our man, lying down, on a rocky beach landscape, beneath a tarp, stones for sale to his right on small boxes and shelves. Behind him, a sign in Japanese on a pole, a bird in flight, silhouetted. The next panel zooms in and flips our view of the sign on the pole. Thus, are we looking from the sea shore? Are we the bird in flight? It stretches time or space, maybe both, doing this. On the sign: “stones.” My struggle to read the computerized French caption is minimal: I became a seller of stones. But at the start of that sentence, does “pour finir” mean “finally” or “in the end” or even “in order to finish?” Each incarnation means something new: resigned in the first two possibilities, or something more willful in the third.
Panel 3 of this page- a close up of the stones. Suddenly they are higher in contrast, and differentiated from each other. Some are splotchy, some textured with thin gradations, some lumpy, some smooth. A price adorns each rock. Everything depicted in the story up til now sits there stock still, solid, a heavy, deadened part of some otherwise transient (ocean, river currents, wind currents) landscape.
Page 7, a giant silhouetted crow with a berry or stone in its beak rests on a wooden pillar. These pillars line a road to the back of the space of the panel. The atmosphere in the sky and/or water is troubled with lines, but the crow is unbothered. In the text, the man says he tried other things- some sort of cartoonist, some sort of photographer, nothing worked. Man is bothered, nature unmoved.
The man is viewed closer and closer, seeming more like the first vision of him we saw. He has read some books on selling stones, it doesn’t cost anything to begin such an endeavor, he thought it was a good trade for him. Our last view is presumably his view, looking onto a small marshy area of reeds, plains and water.
Action begins on page 9 (page 8 sets us up to see the giant river-landscape he is on). As our man prods and beats and pokes at stones, he tells us he’s going to do this well, and deciding this, he was given the idea for his project. It’s the last two panels here that are riveting. Panel 5, where the text about him getting his little idea, the man is on a little jetty or wooden plank. It’s precarious- he’s careful, on the edge of his world, and maybe his understanding. An idea is forming. The next panel, “My project”, as the man shuts his eyes and looks serene, a silhouetted train thunders by above his head, on a bridge over the river. The effect: “It’s risky, but a powerful idea.”
We’re fully in this man’s world now. As his lines and shadow assemble to re-form him panel after panel, he makes his way through his new chosen profession.
Best movies seen and best books read in 2008
Having a terrible memory, I enlisted my MacBook and Microsoft MS Excel in a partnership to assist me in recording all the media I explored in 2008. So MY Best-Of-2008 list reflects whatever the hell I saw or read in depth in 2008, regardless of year of creation.
Here’s the rundown.
- Movies seen: 75
- Books read: roughly 22 (some left unfinished, some smaller, etc.)
- Short stories read: roughly 36, but I often forget to log them.
- I wish it could include the amazing songs I encountered this year, but Emusic makes that far too difficult. Let’s make a special mention of Little Richard’s “I Don’t Know What You Got” which makes me cry,
Movies in detail.
Top 10 (11) movies:
- NIGHT OF THE IGUANA – John Huston’s adaptation of Tennessee Williams. Richard Burton creating William Shatner’s entire career in two hours. Eva Gardner AMAZING. Shirtless maraca-waving boy toys. THIS FILM HAS EVERYTHING!!! Read about it here
- DEVILS AT THE DOORSTEP – Does anyone else know this movie exists? It’s nearly perfect.Wiki link here.
- THE EDGE OF HEAVEN – Fatih Akin’s newest, about 6 characters bouncing between Germany and Turkey. Leela and I saw it 3 times. Akin, along with Almodovar, and John Cameron Mitchell have the biggest hearts of directors currently working.
- ELECTRA – Leela and I went on a Greek tragedy binge, seeing all the Michael Cacoyannis adaptations and me watching the Pasolini/Maria Callas MEDEA and listening to the Cherubini/Maria Callas opera.
- DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY – Just beautiful.
- PERSEPOLIS – I walked away thinking THIS was the version of this story that needed to be told. I’m a fan enough of Marjane Satrapi’s book, but she’s not a terrific artist, not a strong stylist and not much of a craftsperson. This movie, I suppose due to the smart help she marshaled, is a cohesive, glorious telling of her story.
- TARKAN VS THE VIKINGS – Corny Turkish adventure film. Everyone wearing Technicolor fake fur, a giant octopus and hot chicks!
- THE DAY I BECAME A WOMAN – Blogged about this wonderful Iranian film here.
- VIVRE SA VIE – Goddard, Anna Karina.
- 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 8 DAYS – Powerful Romanian film about a desperate woman’s attempt to get an abortion
- LOLA MONTEZ – Wild bio pic told with framing device of a circus.
SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS:
- Stupid, but I liked it anyway: SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER. Another Tennessee Williams over the top bunch of junk
- Craziest small budget time travelling movie everyone talk about – PRIMER
- John Cameron Mitchell is real – SHORTBUS
- Charming small time movie about falafel cart owner in Queens. MAN PUSH CART. I’m dying to see his new movie, CHOP SHOP
- Argued into seeing and loved it: THREE BURIALS OF MELQUEADOS ESTRADA
- This movie sucks and don’t let anyone tell you differently: SHOWGIRLS
- Finally saw some of the DECALAOGUE
- Best visual compostions: MILDRED PIERCE
- Best silent film with a drunken pig scene: SUNRISE, Murnau
- Best new boyfriend: MAD MEN. Sopranos sits with me like a bad relationship. I should have NEVER gotten involved with him! WHY DID I THINK HE LOVED ME? He was such an asshole and I only have bad feelings about that whole thing now. MAD MEN is different. He loves me like I need to be loved. The finale to Season 1 is devastating.
Some seen and loved again:
- BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
- BAD EDUCATION
- HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH
Hated and everyone loved:
- TELL NO ONE- Are you kidding me? Rich white guy goes to the ghetto to enlist his homies to help find his lost wife, who is rocking out to U2 in cyberspace. Ech. Here’s what I wrote in my notes at the time: “way too convaluted! Too Scooby Doo in the end, with a grand, enormous explanation to wrap it all together (and introduce new plot points, etc.bleh)”
- EYES WIDE SHUT- I hate this more the more I think about it, though the first half is powerful. Raw feelings between couples portrayed pretty realistically, but then Tom Cruise winds up in The Temple of Doom and it just gets ridiculous. I want to be talked into at least liking this film, but it’s not going to happen.
Books read (exempting graphic novels). These were all great so I list them all:
- The Blind Assassin Margaret Atwood (brilliant)
- Surfacing Margaret Atwood (wild and wonderful)
- The Western Cannon and How To Read and Why Harold Bloom
- 100 Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Brothers Karamazov Dosteyevsky (didn’t finish)
- Notebooks to Brother Karamazov
- The Nonexistent Knight Italo Calvino
- Don Quixote Cervantes (didn’t finish, read about half)
- Crescent Diana Abu-Jaber
- The Language of Baklava Diana Abu-Jaber
- 1001 Arabian Nights Various Arabs, Turks and Persians
- The Search Naquib Mahfouz
- She’s Not There Jenny Boylan
- The Road Cormac Mccarthy
- Master of Reality John Darnielle
- Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
- The Dead (Dubliners) James Joyce
- Odeipus at Colonus Sophocles (gorgeous)
- Pale Fire Vladimir Nabokov
- Last Things Jenny Offill
- Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury
- The Sound and The Fury William Faulkner
The story here is discovering the classics. Harold Bloom argued me into Surfacing, which rarely gets mentioned in discussions about Atwood. Surfacing was my favorite book of 2008- wild, probing, weird, sad; until Lolita came along in August. Where was Lolita in my life before this? I feel like artistically, my creative brain will break down into B.L. and P.L.
Other themes, ideas and questions: Pale Fire is almost as good as Lolita, but more cerebral and sillier. Two great memoirs: She’s Not There and The Language of Baklava. The latter of which has probably informed Margo’s and my new comic strip.
I read 100 Years of Solitude and The Sound and The Fury for book clubs I never joined. What was I thinking trying to read The Sound and The Fury with no help?? I’m reading As I Lay Dying as 2009 begins. I found myself reading it recently in a Kings County Hosptial Emergency Room bed. Always full of irony, I am, even post-epileptic seizure…
Roughly 36 short stories, including a few by John Cheever, Raymond Carver, Annie Proulx, Margaret Atwood and "The Vane Sisters" and "Signs and Symbols" by Vladimir Nabokov (the latter introduced and read by Mary Gaitskill on the New Yorker website)
To all my friends searching for happiness, success in love, career, life, listen to Kiki:
Love is a battlefield.
Be arrogant, rather than self-denigrating. Be furious and be disciplined.
Take solace in music. Find music to sing along to. That’s why songs have choruses. Our struggle is your struggle. Love is a battlefield. Nothing is new. Be lovely and typical. Penetrate it. Go through it. (Katabasis.)
Arrogance will get you farther than self-hatred. The darkness will deepen your work, but fight to be rid of it anyway.
You will never be completely free of the anger and resentment and hurt. But try to wrestle it off, anyway, through art and practice.
Life is a battlefield. Art is a battlefield.
Connect with the struggle and the suffering, and deepen your practice. Art is your practice. Like a martial art, like meditation or chanting, like breathing. Breathing is your battlefield. (Just ask Arjuna.)
Cut yourself open, untangle the knots (-Leonard Cohen). Art presents you to the world, opens you for the world. Art gifts you to the world.
You have to commit to it, for a higher purpose- but that’s what you’re here for.
Kiki and Herb: Kiki is a raw, desperate, hurting, somewhat (or mostly) ugly Child of God. She deserves your love. Do you? Don’t you? Oh less ugly ones?
Don’t turn your back on me.
Don’t turn your back on Kiki.
Kiki Loves You!
Kiki Needs You!
Kiki would die for you!