Category Archives: Link

Back against the Wall

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Filed under Gallery, Link, News

Just uploaded some of the pages I’ve been doing for Saint James Comics to the Comics (!) section, so go check them out to see a bit of a different style. I removed the dialog as a courtesy and so that you’ll go check out their site (it’s cool!)

Did a stand up comedy set at a nearby establishment last night, and someone was there taping it, so if I get ahold of that footage I’ll put it up here. I don’t know if I “killed,” but it was a low-energy night for everyone and I did pretty well, considering.

In other news, this is very impressive and you should watch it:

The answer is…

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I stumbled upon this inspired show after seeing a clip from it in a montage of weird internet videos. Apparently John Meyer tweeted this a few months ago, and while I will never enjoy his music, I have to say I’ve re-evaluated his taste in comedy:

The Two-Hour Witching Hour

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Filed under Fun, Idea, Link, News

For some reason I’m really excited for Halloween this year. Perhaps it’s because Madison’s famously over-the-top celebration, which I’m most familiar with, was starting to crumble under the weight of concerns such as “safety” and “preventing property damage” (Truly, once tear gas is taken out of the equation, a street party loses its magic), or perhaps its because I had to skip it last year because I was moving and missed the one little public party in Helena, MT, and perhaps its because my birthday comes up two days afterward and this is kind of serving as a party for both. But whatever the reason, I am jazzed. This year is gonna be fun.

So I’m going to work hard the rest of this week to finish the inks and especially that promo image so I can enjoy spending time with my friends without suffering the guilt of the procrastinator.

But to return to the idea of somewhat seedy fun, I have to say “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is quickly becoming one of the best things on TV. I have watched this episode three times and could probably watch it three more:

(In case it doesn’t play on this site: http://www.hulu.com/watch/101903/its-always-sunny-in-philadelphia-the-gang-gives-frank-an-intervention#s-p1-so-i0 )
It got me thinking, though, about comedy and personality types: When I had hurt myself the other day and was lying around with an icepack in an embarrassing place, I decided to watch some TV comedies on Hulu that are not, shall we say, targeted to my demographic, for the purposes of both research and so I had something to grumble about besides how much pain I was in.

Now, this is just some inchoate theorizing, some off-the-cuff reasoning that’s definitely not ready for peer review, but it’s been turning over in my mind and I thought I’d expose it to the light of day and see if it rots or cowers back into the shadows. When I was doing sketch comedy, the other group members and I had a theory that people who decide to write comedy fall into essentially two types, which we termed “Theater Kids” and “Assholes.” Both those designations are a little mean, but I think they paint a richer picture of the kind of people I’m talking about. These two kinds of people have, of course, very different senses of humor and approaches to writing and performing it. I would use examples from stand-up, but I think this dichotomy is much clearer in “narrative” comedy like sketch or film.

When I was in Madison, our sketch group looked down its nose at another group composed of Theater Kids (though no doubt they decried us as terrible human beings) and we found their “constructive” approach to humor to be anathema to anything we considered funny or interesting, which lead me to think that this fundamental division in comedy writing, and perhaps ultimately in art in general, comes down to the idea of “positive and negative space” — When these Theater Kids wanted to make a point, they would have a character who explicitly represents that point make various “common sense” assertions, and try to derive humor from those being shot down by the old Screwed Up World – I would term this “positive space.” On the other hand we (And I use this term loosely because it was mostly me pushing for this, resulting in many arguments during writing meetings) would try to write a character that embodied whatever foolishness we wanted to mock, and would make them out to be someone contemptible and not to be emulated – What I would term “negative space.” I prefer this almost exclusively – Things going well, and people behaving well, are not, to my mind, funny. And often times not even interesting (This is why I have trouble enjoying film dramas – They’re rarely long or dense enough for me to become invested in the plight of the characters, while a good farce simply invites you to laugh at them, and by extension the world that causes them to behave that way).

The other notion that laid eggs in my brain was the idea of “backing down.” This is ultimately related to the “show, don’t tell” adage that every creative writing professor likely has tattooed somewhere on his or her body, with good reason: Action is what brings fiction to life – Talk on its own is an essay. This notion of “backing down” brings me again to the other shows I mentioned earlier, and why I like “Always Sunny.” One of the shows I looked at was “Glee,” a perfect example of, in this case literal, Theater Kid sensibility. The story was explicit in its moral intentions, using those “positive space” brushstrokes to convey a tale about a nice kid worrying he’ll be rejected by his peers, and then pulling through in the end. But what struck me even more was the way the comedy would often “back down” from an unpleasant idea, raising only the specter of it for laughs (“The teacher thinks we should cane students!”), as opposed to actually having the threatened event occur. I suppose this can be attributed to the “hardness” of a given story’s comedic universe, but there’s something that rubs me the wrong way about posing a “threat” to the audience or characters as a comedic end in itself, as opposed to actually having the thing in question happen. It’s already fictional, so this is like making it fiction twice over… On the other hand, a show like “Always Sunny” will delve into a comedic action immediately, with the words and explanation always playing catch-up. Obviously, since these examples are TV shows, budget, network standards, and the like are important factors, but it’s still possible to have something occur off-screen or otherwise be implied to have actually happened as opposed to merely rolling them out as concepts. Next time you’re watching a show or reading a book, take note of the times something occurs as an attempt at humor versus how many times it’s merely threatened in order to get a laugh. Ultimately, what I mean by “backing down” in comedy writing is best expressed by some cliched jokes: Think of characters making a dead baby joke versus actually having a baby die, or someone saying “I banged your mom” versus actually having the character do it. I guess it comes down to the old postmodern saw about the contents of a story being a commentary on the story itself. Or something…

I’d go on, or at least re-re-rewrite until it’s clearer, but it’s only a foggy notion in my head as-is, and I don’t want to spend all my time writing and none of it drawing, so I’ll leave this off here. I don’t have any answers right now, but hopefully some lines of thought will take this post as a starting point.

The lesson of Elvis

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Filed under Fun, Idea, Link, News, Sketch

If anyone ever tells you that you can’t painfully injure yourself while pooping, they’re mistaken. Sorely mistaken. (Wordplay!)

I brought up Elvis, however, to also serve as a segue into another, very different blast from the past:
I was organizing my art files earlier, and found this old, old, old drawing I did in perhaps 5th grade, showing my drawing fixation from around the ages of 9 to 12, which was centered around massive cartoon battles between Gary Larson-style lemmings and incompetent little robots with laser guns for hands:
lem

This was essentially all I drew between 3rd and 6th grades. I had an art teacher who loved the idea, though, calling me, in my report card, the “Heironymus Bosch of the 5th grade” and encouraged me do a massive poster in this style for the centerpiece of the Parents’ Night exhibit, which was a really great idea if you wanted my friends’ parents to forbid me to come over. Every once in a while, I look back fondly on these characters and think about using them again. There’s something refreshingly basic and silly and honest about them, a certain something that makes me think that Modern Me is occasionally trying too hard.

Then, a few months ago, I saw “Superjail!,” and it all came flooding back – This is exactly what my little friends and I used to sit around and draw on massive sheets of paper. We rarely achieved the levels of blood and gore that Superjail! casually enjoys, but the simple, zoomed-out “schematic” look full of incidental detail and improvisation hits all the same notes, and for me it was like hearing a once-favorite song I hadn’t thought about in years. As an example, here’s a compilation of the opening sequences, demonstrating that sensibility:

There is a certain type of kid who should see “Superjail!” Not that you should show it to them – you as a responsible adult would get in trouble – but they should find a way to watch it some late night after their parents have gone to bed and they’ve build a couch fort in the living room. There’s something childlike yet illicit about it: It’s the TV equivalent of the older boys asking you if you want to go see a dead body. It’s the kind of thing being talked about in this essay, or in this book.
Maybe that’s all self-justification for my liking something that’s ultimately frivolous, just because, somewhat worryingly, it makes me feel all nostalgic and gooey. But there’s something to be said for reconnecting with that little kid who was just drawing lemmings and robots without any thought of whether it was good or not – Just drawing for the sake of drawing – for “fun”, that unassailable fortress of sincerity – the very act lending it an authenticity that disintegrates into ash as soon as it becomes something calculated.

…The irony, of course, being that this entire post boils down to “don’t overthink things.” I’m going to take my own advice and get back to work, and draw with my gut instead of my head.

And I think my gut has recovered.

Dooooo you have the time / To read about my mind

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Filed under Fun, Link

Dookie was the first album anyone my age ever bought.

Anyway, this is a fascinating read: NewScientist on how the brain “does” time.

Got some stuff for my Halloween costume yesterday at a thrift place close to the grocery store: 1 flannel shirt, 1 orange hunter vest, 1 tennis racket, 1 NES light gun, 1 Chicago Bulls cap. Total: $12(!). Now I need another 2 liter bottle, tin foil, black spray paint, some cardboard, duct tape, and a bunch of little American flags…

Gotta say it was a good day.

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Filed under Fun, Link

Comedy went well last night – Nothing special, but the new material seemed to go over well enough. I should get a video or something up at some point; there was a guy there with a camera, and I’ll have to make friends with him somehow…

Today was mostly boring stuff – Inked a bit, went grocery shopping, cleaned my bathroom. Now I’m gonna watch 30 Rock and have some dinner and then get back to work.

In the mean time, have a charming little music video:

Ow, my metabolism.

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Filed under Idea, Link

Trying to peel off the layers of fatigue and get back at those inks… Seriously, I drank four cups of coffee and still just want to go back to bed… I’ll go for a run and try to get the blood moving. It backfired yesterday and left me an inanimate lump in a chair for the rest of the afternoon, but maybe today, maybe today, things will be different and I’ll be able to go at it with no unseemly breaks. After all, every day is a new beginn… Argh, I can’t even finish. It’s too corny (Also, my wireless keyboard ran out of batteries and I had to change them).

I’ll leave you with this — I heard this track earlier this year on Pandora, and I have not been able to get enough of it. I’d like to say it could be my theme song, but I don’t want to give you the impression that I am a sentient planet or some kind of pan-dimensional being that eats time or some such, because I know that’s the impression I would get from this:

Try looking at Hubble Telescope photos while listening.

Back in The ‘Go, whaddya know.

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Filed under Idea, Link

Back in town, gonna work on the “Achilles” inks today and hopefully some more on an oil painting of a water tower…
Speaking of paintings, if anyone knows a good place in Chicago that doesn’t charge much to print a digital image onto canvas, shoot me an email and I’ll be your friend forever and ever, amen.

Incidentally, I’ve been on a bit of a stop-motion animation kick lately, and have even tried to make some during my downtime. While looking around for examples, I found this little video which takes the whole idea of stop-motion and hits it out of the park. Or should I say…pork? Tee hee hee:

The Title of that one Jonathan Coulton Song Everyone Knows.

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Filed under Fun, Idea, Link

I have returned. I’m still alive, you might say. Just finished some comic strips for a remake of the gag series Two Word Title (the original can be found in the comics section). Even after taking out all the objectionable content I was still left me with enough material for new strips, so now I’m back to work on the 19th Century adventures of Hollander and Wakefield for the fine people at St. James Comics, among other projects. I finished an oil painting a little while ago, and once I get it back from the venue I’ll have some pictures as well. I really need to get a new camera…

Trying to think of some new project ideas… I’m currently stuck in “comics mode” but at a BBQ the other day I was describing some gallery installation ideas that kind of got me fired up to write grant proposals again. I need some capital, after all, if I’m going to buy fancy enough objects to be worth “monsterizing.”

Not much in the way of new work I’d like to show right now, but I’ll share with you this clip from “Vermilion Pleasure Night,” a surrealist late-night Japanese sketch comedy show from the mind of conceptual artist Yoshimasa Ishibashi (Skit dubbed into English for your convenience):

The Japanese version has an funny, tripped-out deadpan that’s missing here, but this sketch still gave me a side ache from laughing so hard, and I’m probably going to buy the complete DVD collection (it’s only 3 discs). It exists at the intersection of modern art and sketch comedy, two things I try to keep a foot in, but Vermilion Pleasure Night definitely isn’t for everyone; it wants to make you work to understand it. As the kind of person, however, who often tries to think outside of the box, but then re-reads or looks over everything he does until he can just draw another, bigger box around it, and then repeats the process, it’s fun to see someone else obviously thinking the same way – VPN is full of the kinds of ideas I’d bring up when writing in a group, that would quickly get shot down with a “no one else thinks like that, Jon.” Well, this show does.

Turn n’ Learn

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Filed under Link, News

Working on some abstract acrylic paintings on panels for a project in NYC, but it’s slow going as inspiration has yet to really strike.
Spent a lot of time today just getting my new apartment set up as a good workspace. Turns out it’s a lot easier to switch between my desk and computer if I… Wait, those details aren’t interesting. Suffice it to say, I like this new arrangement. I also ordered a huge map of the world for my wall, and it just came today so the temptation to sit around starting at it, dreaming of the adventures to be had in places with names like “Tangier” and “Zaragoza” and “Nebraska,” is very strong, but fortunately my work ethic was stronger, and I sent off a huge number of portfolios looking for new commissions. Going to go out tomorrow and get a cool folding screen to partition the work and living areas, and maybe a TV if Craigslist obliges.

OK, this marks me indelibly as either a yuppie or just a pretentious wiener, but I think the following site is absolutely amazing: http://www.academicearth.org
It’s a repository of filmed lectures from the world’s top universities; the magic learning-box that’s been forecast since the first electrons shot though a cathode ray tube back in the ’50s. You can even take some of these courses for credit. Wow~! “Impress” your friends with your new knowledge of philosophy or computer science or black hole physics (Three examples from the front page)! As someone who works at home, however, doing a lot of tedious brain-stem work of filling in little fiddly bits of a picture, something like this makes a perfectly arresting and edifying distraction.