It just never ends.
Gene Yang's comic book American Born Chinese has been praised far and wide. In fact, it's been nominated for a National Book Award. Tony Long at Wired News weighs in with a well-informed opinion that this is a bad thing. Just how well-informed is his opinion? Well, he tells us, "I have not read this particular 'novel' but I'm familiar with the genre so I'm going to go out on a limb here." That's a good way to establish some credibility. In the same vein, I haven't seen the "movie" The Wind that Shakes the Barley, but I'm familiar with the genre, so I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it quite obviously did not deserve to win the 2006 Palme d'Or at Cannes.
Though he assures us that, "this is not about denigrating the comic book," Long provides this nugget of brilliance: "comic books should not be nominated for National Book Awards, in any category. That should be reserved for books that are, well, all words." Wow, good thing you're not denigrating comic books, Tony.
But he's not done, of course. He provides further brilliance: "If you've ever tried writing a real novel, you'll know where I'm coming from. To do it, and especially to do it well enough to be nominated for this award, the American equivalent of France's Prix Goncourt or Britain's Booker Prize, is exceedingly difficult." Yes, novel-writing is exceedingly difficult. Writing and drawing a 240-page comic book, though, is as easy as steering a train. Nothin' to it. Requires basically no effort, skill or talent whatsoever.
The guy does, in an idiotic and backhanded fashion, have a somewhat valid point, though. "This is simply to say that, as literature, the comic book does not deserve equal status with real novels, or short stories. It's apples and oranges." His judgement about what sort of status and consideration a comic book "deserves" is not just insulting, it's downright stupid. But trying to compare comics to prose is, indeed fairly useless. Any narrative form can be compared to any other...but comics are comics. They don't nominate movies or plays for National Book Awards, and comics probably shouldn't be nominated for awards intended for prose fiction, either. Not that they don't "deserve" it, just that they're an entirely different art form.
So insulting. "Juvenile literature attracts a lot of first-rate authors. Always has.
Sorry, but no comic book, regardless of how cleverly executed, belongs in that class." I really love the use of the phrase, "cleverly executed" to describe what he supposes is a first-rate comic book, like he was describing a magic trick or a witty remark.
I think Neil Gaiman summed it up best in his response:
I suppose if he builds a time machine he could do something about Maus's 1992 Pulitzer, or Sandman's 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, or Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan winning the 2001 Guardian First Book Award, or even Watchmen's appearance on Time's Hundred Best Novels of the 20th Century list. Lacking a Time Machine, it seems a rather silly and antiquated argument, like hearing someone complain that women have the vote or that be-bop music and crooners are turning up in the pop charts.
I like the bit where he says that he hasn't read the comic in question, but he just knows what things like that are like. It's always best to be offended by things you haven't read. That way you keep your mind uncluttered by things that might change it.
This commercial just came on TV...
"It happens every year. Just about the time the Broncos hit the field, the McRib comes back to McDonald's!" Boy, what an exciting event.
I think that of all the disgusting things they serve at McDonald's, the McRib is one of them.
For those not familiar, the McRib is a sandwich comprised of reconstituted meat-like product, shaped vaguely like a rack of ribs slathered in a substance that is not unlike barbecue sauce and topped with diced onions.
It does not escape my notice that they're very vague about what kind of meat the McRib is actually made of. I sampled a McRib once when I was in high school, and I recall not being able to tell just what the meat was. Theoretically, one would suppose that a barbecue sandwich ought to be made of pork. It could, however, be beef. It could be horse. It could be pigeon. Hard to tell, really. And they just don't say. It reminds me of the old myth that the Col. Sanders folks changed over to "KFC" from "Kentucky Fried Chicken" because they couldn't legally call what they serve "chicken" anymore.
At least, I think that's a myth...
Timestamp: 10/25/2006 08:52:00 PM
Show me a nerd who doesn't love Weird Al Yankovic like a fat kid loves cake, and I'll show you someone who's not really a nerd at all. Writer Sam Anderson muses on the pop-cultural significance of Weird Al over at Slate, under a great title: "Troubadork."
And by the way, if you haven't seen "White & Nerdy," you really do need to check it out. Hilarious.
I got my first CD player when I was in 9th grade, and the first two CDs I bought were Queen's Flash Gordon soundtrack and Weird Al's Off the Deep End. That neither of these purchases struck me as even remotely odd should be a good indicator that the title of this blog is quite apt.
Another indicator is the fact that I still occasionally listen to Freddie Mercury and the boys explaining that Flash (Ah-aah!) will save ev'ry one of us. Can't say I still pull the Weird Al CD out of the book at all, though. "Smells Like Nirvana" remains funny and will probably remain so for as long as people are listening to Nirvana. On the other hand, the album's parodies of Milli Vanilli, NKOTB and Gerardo (aka the "Rico Suave" guy) are, like their subjects, interesting but essentially irrelevant pop-cultural fossils, only moreso. Playing "The Right Stuff" or "Baby Don't Forget My Number" at a party might get you a laugh. Playing "The White Stuff" or "Don't Forget My Plumber" at a party will probably just get you strange looks.
That's the tricky part about what Weird Al does, I suppose, along the same lines of something I mentioned in my post about MAD magazine not long ago. Parody is a very of-the-moment art, a delicate balance. You mostly just have to throw everything you can think of up against the wall and see what sticks. If your subject ages like fine wine, then your parody will, too. The rest will age like prison hooch. A parody of Gone With the Wind is still funny and interesting, because Rhett and Scarlett have endured and the movie remains popular nearly seventy years on. A parody of Twister isn't funny or interesting because the movie, only ten years old, is already little more than a curiosity, a cultural relic of the mid-'90s. Similarly, "Smells Like Nirvana" is still relevant because "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is, too, whereas I can't even say "Gerardo" and expect anyone will know who I'm talking about without appending "(aka the 'Rico Suave' guy)," and even then there's some doubt.
In other words, it's a tough job, skewering the pomposity and bombast of modern popular music, but Weird Al's been doing it pretty well for twenty-five years now, from "My Bologna" to "White & Nerdy."
Plus, who else can you name who can fucking ROCK OUT on the accordion?
Timestamp: 10/20/2006 12:20:00 PM
Jeebus Fucking Christ in a birchbark canoe...
I remind you, gentle reader, that it's two weeks until Halloween. And they're already starting to phase out Halloween candy on the store shelves and replace it with Christmas decorations. Remember when nobody even mentioned Christmas until after Thanksgiving? I'm now mere days away from a constant barrage of TV ads telling me that I can get all my Christmas shopping done at JC Penney, that I can only really show her that I love her by buying forty thousand dollars worth of diamonds for Christmas, that I'm a bad person if I'm not buying extravagant Christmas gifts for every single person I know, from my parents to the postman to Aloysius, my fourth cousin twelve times removed who I met once at the family reunion when I was eleven, that I need to stock up on Chex Mix and Cool Whip to make The Holidays extra-special and if I don't, I'm a thoughtless asshole who will RUIN CHRISTMAS FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY right down to Cousin Aloysius, that Christmas is a special fucking time when special fucking memories are made but only in direct proportion to the amount of money I spend.
As I write this, Sarah McLachlan is on the Tonight Show singing a fucking Christmas song. It's October goddamn 18th. It's happening already, and it's only going to get worse. Two weeks from now, every store and restaurant I go into is going to be playing endless craptacular Christmas music.
I just saw another ad for The Santa Clause 3. The movie is billing itself as "the final chapter in the greatest holiday trilogy of all time!" Quick, name another holiday trilogy!
Yeah, me neither.
This ad was followed, by the way, by an ad for the "Colorado Country Christmas Gift Show, November 3-5 at the Denver Merchandise Mart." Ugh.
The sum total of all this is...well...here it is...
Here it comes...
I hate Christmas.
There's a tiny bit of me that spends the first ten months of each year dreading the last two. This piece of me knows that I'll spend those two months wanting to put a bullet through my TV screen, Elvis-style, that I'm going to be fucking bombarded by holly and mistletoe and Jessica goddamn Simpson warbling her way through "Santa, Baby" every time I step foot out of the house. This piece of me also knows that if I make even the tiniest peep of complaint about any of this, somebody will be right there to call me a Grinch or a Scrooge or something, because it's my patriotic duty as an American to luv luv luv Christmas.
You know what holiday I like? The Fourth of July. It's low-stress. It's fun and there are interesting things going on, parades and fireworks and suchlike, but there's not much advertising associated with it, there's no fucking Fourth of July carols (unless you count the Star-Spangled Banner and the works of John Phillip Sousa), and it's mostly about cheeseburgers and cold beer. What's not to love?
Timestamp: 10/18/2006 11:03:00 PM
I've been trying for two hours now to write a post. I've been completely unable to organize my thoughts into anything remotely coherent or interesting. I suppose all of my creative energies have been pouring into the two huge projects I turned in today. So maybe I'll have a resurgence of bloggish creativity soon - stay tuned. For now, I'm fuckin beat, man.
Timestamp: 10/17/2006 09:29:00 PM
Dude, check out David. You can totally see his weiner! And his nutsack. And his pubes.
An art teacher in Texas has been fired because she took her students on a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art where, it seems, they saw depictions of the human form.
The news article doesn't say just exactly what they saw at the museum. It may have been a weiner, like ol' Dave's at left. It may have been boobies. Who knows?
What I do know for sure is that the human body is dirty, evil, wicked, sinful, and lots of other words besides.
This, my friends, is a blow for the traditional values that made America great. For God's sake, if we allow fifth-graders to see nude art, what's next? I'll tell you what's next. This is a slippery slope, my friends, and if we do let ten-year-olds see nudity at a museum, before you know it, they'll be swapping strange rumors and wild, uneducated theories about...um, well, you know...ess-eee-ecks...on the playground at recess. They'll be sneaking looks at their Dad's Playboy magazines when their parents aren't home.
Of course, we can't fire filthy-minded smut-peddlers like this art teacher for being filthy-minded smut-peddlers or the pinkos at the ACLU get all fired up and start sticking their noses where they don't belong. Fortunately, this particular 28-year veteran, award-winning teacher also just happens to be a lousy, awful teacher, in dire need of performance improvement. What an unusual but fortunate coincidence!
Thank God we've got people like the fine, fine administrators like Principal Nancy McGee and Assistant Principal Manuel Gonzalez. Some people, some ACLU pinko types, might say that McGee and Gonzalez are over-reactive morons who respond like trained monkeys to a single slack-jawed, drooling fuckwit of a parent who doesn't want their precious fifth-grader to be exposed to dirty, evil, sinful nudity instead of standing by and defending long-time teachers. But those people are wrong. McGee and Gonzalez are clearly fine Americans, defenders of traditional values and of our precious, innocent children.
The artwork pictured above contains nudity and adult situations, and should not have been viewed by children.
Timestamp: 10/02/2006 11:03:00 PM