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Jason Little, the cartoonist who created the great strip "Bee," has organized a kind of walk-in, multi-artist, multilayered, po-mo graphic-novel installation piece that one reads panel by panel while moving through a labyrinthine exhibition space. It's called Cartünnel: a comix fluxture:
Visitors are invited to walk through the maze and experience a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story, with side-plots, dead-ends, and parallel narrative universes, created in a collaborative atmosphere. Depending on which directions visitors choose at various junctures along the way, the course of the story will be altered accordingly. A visitor would be able to walk through the maze several times and see different versions and permutations of the narrative each time they do.I haven't seen the installation yet (at Flux Factory in Queens, Saturdays and Sundays 2-8 pm through August 7) but I enjoyed paging through Little's panels online (go to the thumbnail grid, or even better, follow them sequentially here by clicking the right arrows above each panel). Not all of the show looks this strong (and the mounting of drawings appears awfully crude) but I'll say more after I...um, see it. All the artists are doing variations on a mutually agreed-upon story and characters: a cute Cambodian girl loses her leg to a landmine, moves to America with her parents, then discovers a magic goose in Central Park. The bird is the familiar of a witch lady, a naked hag in a wolf skin cursed to live forever in the park, who periodically morphs into a curvaceous babe and seduces joggers. Just as he did with Bee (whose adventures are assembled in the book Shutterbug Follies), Little makes creeped-out subject matter seem beguiling and "normal" through his clean, lucid, and enormously sympathetic drawing style. His panels are for sale, and a portion goes to the not-for-profit space--I acquired two (including the winsome one above), in a shameless display of Greenbergesque blogospheric power-broking.
"The pale surrogate humans of Michelle Handelman's performance work Passerby infiltrated Bryant Park today, mingling with the late lunch crowd." That was supposed to be the opening sentence of this post. I just noticed the "the" in "the late lunch crowd" was missing through my own sloppiness. It's fixed now. If anyone spots a typo here, or something you think is a typo, please leave a comment. You won't hurt my feelings; in fact I'll send you a no-prize (Marvel comics reference) by email.
This still needs some work, continuity-wise, but you get the idea. I notice New York Times columnist Frank Rich actually felt it was worth drawing some sociological conclusions from the fact that Spider Man 2 eclipsed Fahrenheit 9/11 at the box office. (America needs a hero that's concerned about the collateral damage he causes, yada yada yada.) Is anyone else as tired of Rich's schtick as I am? Read a week's worth of newspaper articles, tie them all together with the entertainment angle: it's Playdoh factory crit.
Matthew Geller's urban earthwork Foggy Day (previously discussed here and here) was vetted by the blowdried fascisti of Fox News last fall; an online video of the broadcast can be viewed at the Creative Capital website. As discussed previously, public funds paid for approximately 10% of the project so the conservatives swooped into action--first with a denunciatory cover story in the New York Sun, and of course the Fox broadcast features the obligatory thinktank intellectual in a book-lined room (who hadn't seen the piece) gassing on about the proper use of tax dollars. Fox did Geller a tremendous favor, though, not so much with the faux-controversy as with the camera work for his portfolio. Because the network keeps things fast-moving and fast-cutting so the couch potatoes won't wander away from their screens, it turned Foggy Day (a temporary, artificial fogbank with stands of bamboo and simulated puddles in Chinatown's Cortlandt Alley) from a "romantic stroll in the park" into Gulf War 3, replete with jittery handheld shots, views from a speeding vehicle, and an embedded reporter emerging from the steam. (Creative Capital now has two groups of pages devoted to the project, one with text and pictures and one with video, text, and pictures.)
Bob Somerby has a good series of essays on the negative response of so-called liberal columnists to Michael Moore's movie. He singles out Ellen Goodman, whose aversion to Moore and people cheering the film is so strong she actually defends Bush (who she admits "misled" us into war). Somerby pegs her reaction as class disgust, and suggests it's what's prompting many of the squeals coming from the pampered, perfumed "millionaire pundits" who shape opinion in Washington. Moore dares to rise above his working class station (even though he's rich now, himself) and show images in the movie of the people who will be--are being--ground up in the war machine, as well as revealing footage of Bush in his element of entitled movers and shakers.
The film critic tedg suggests that Moore's achievement--another reason the yammering head class is threatened--is that he's created a Movie that Undoes the Movie of the morning-in-America return to values the Republican disinfo machine has spun for 25 years:
[T]here is a strong tendency to adapt movie stories to political beliefs. This first washed upon America with Ronald Reagan - himself a film figure. He was able to stick to solid movie narratives to literally shape American's beliefs. His simple, movie-based 'sunshine in America' notion caught fire, even in the face of pesky facts.
Since then, 'conservatives' have adopted the movie locomotive and hitched it to the similar dynamics of religion to build a story. 'Liberals' (how do these names get invented?) have the unentertaining job of trying to pry minds away from the comfortable movie narrative and explain that life is not so simple.
They are always bound to lose, especially when business interests have a reason to feed the machine. So what to do? What to do?
Well, you make a movie about how dumb the Republican movie is. You weave a metamovie, or if you can an 'unmovie' that dissolves the fiction with facts. But even an unmovie is a movie, so it needs a simple narrative. Moore is faulted because his simple narrative is similarly simpler than life.
But here it is: Bush is a febrile dimwit manipulated by slick weasels. Saudis pull money from the west and then feed it back with obligations. Thinking of the world as a 'Bonanza' western is getting us in trouble and seriously hurting people.
I'll credit Moore with extreme movie intelligence in spinning a simple story (incidentally based on facts) to deliberately destroy a similar simple movie story spun by The Powers (which unhappily flies in the face of facts).
In doing so, Moore cleverly omits much. For example, he shows administration babblers claiming weapons of mass destruction and terrorist ties. And he then says nothing at all about the truth of these, because we all now know they are false. Having us fill the gaps with what we know from outside the film is masterful, like just showing us Bush's vacant face. Is his brain fried by his admitted drug and alcohol binges? Moore never even hints... except for four bars from JJ Cale's 'Cocaine' when mentioning Bush's year-long absence from military duty.
Showing the preparation for the press announcements is similar genius: it shows that these guys are all about spinning their own movie. And that one sequence where he literally sets the Bushites in 'Bonanza' with the 'smoke 'em out' mantra puts us the viewers as those who are smoking out the truth at a higher level.
This is masterful storytelling, and could be a milestone in changing, but not breaking, our ineluctable need to see the world as a movie.
No real comment about the Spider-Man movie: better than the first one; too much digital stuff that looks fake; really sick of that pretty boy who plays the Green Goblin's son; worried that we'll be seeing that lousy Goblin again in Part 3; ashamed of seeing a movie that has a Burger King tie-in with copycat scenes; thought Alfred Molina was great; wondered why, when that artificial sun sinks into the Hudson, there's no steam. Molina's digital arms hyper-realize the Steve Ditko originals, in the Baudrillardian sense that they're bigger, shiner, and have more moving parts and nasty chattering bits. Nothing beats Steve Ditko Doctor Octopus arms; the animation above is a mere caricature of their primal magic. It's Work in Progress:
Weighty issue of the day: thinking about de-linking the Bonaire webcams from the FAQ page. Bonaire is the runt of the ABC islands in the Netherlands Antilles (Aruba and Curacao are better known) but the diving excels and it's fun to visit if you like desolate, ass-end of the universe kinds of places. Some local entrepeneurs had four wonderful cams basically aimed at nothing: two looked out on the open ocean facing south and north, one showed a largely empty street where you might occasionally see a dog, and the fourth was the "reefcam"--an underwater view that was mostly a blue rectangle and every once a while a diver waving at someone back home, or a few fish.
Looks like the cams weren't paying their way, so the owners "sold out" to a local resort. The street cam has been replaced by a view of an outdoor dining area, the north and south-facing beach cams now include picturesque palm trees and deck chairs, and the reefcam view has some big lumpy, sunken thing in it that never moves. The descriptions on the cam-page haven't been updated yet, and it looks like the site's archive of old screen grabs is gone. The photo below is a tribute to the Cam Page That Was, a view from the old north beach cam. Let's raise a colorful tropical drink (with a little umbrella) to the forces of modernity and inevitable commerce.
UPDATE: Okay, the link is gone. Needed a slot for the Eyebeam reBlog anyway.
Update, Feb 2010: the cams are still going; a few have been added, such as the "donkey cam." Check it out, the link above still works.
My first house track! This might be classified as "Latin Horror House." [mp3 removed]
ADDENDUM: These recent pieces are "hand crafted" in the sense that no existing loops were used (a la Sony Acid or garageband). They're done with a shareware program where you plug in individual notes on staves and choose from menus of low-quality instrument sounds. It should be fairly obvious from the somewhat halting, robotoid delivery but it needed to be mentioned that these are "my" dumb (but hopefully good dumb) melodies.