Archive for May, 2008

Cubiclism, Part I

May 30, 2008

The most important lesson I learned in graduate school came from reading a slim little book written in Weimar Germany in 1930 by Sigfried Kracauer, The Salaried Masses: Duty and Distraction in Weimar Germany. Kracauer achieved distinction with his journalistic musings on popular culture. “Little Shopgirls Go to the Movies” and “The Mass Ornament” are some of his more well known essays. He also wrote a great book on Offenbach and a less great book on silent film, called From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of German Film. His thoughts on photography are the original source of many of Walter Benjamin’s insights in the famous On Photography essay. He was also young T.A. Adorno’s Saturday afternoon Kant tutor. I hope he charged that asshole an hourly fortune.

In Lipstick Traces, Greil Marcus picked out the most passionately held theses of the Frankfurt School (upon which Kracauer had great, but largely unremarked, influence):

[The Frankfurt School] liked to speak of the paradox of the proletarianization of the world. They meant that when political economy dominates life, it turns everyone, the worker who has been made into a consumer, the bourgeois who was already one, into a sort of proletarian, a mute object in the face of the talking thing: the humanism of the commodity means that the commodity becomes human as the human being becomes a commodity.

For Kracauer, the new proletariat consisted of office workers — the salariat — whose demographic was progressively increasing in size while their distinction as non-manual laborers kept them from identifying with the interests of factory workers. This was due to changes in industrial life that had brought the large office into greater prominence in corporate life, and he attributed the increasingly female population of office workers to “a surplus of women.” Independently of Kracauer, Alfred Sohn-Rethel has argued that capitalism truly began when the management office was first built off away from the shop-room floor — this moment gave birth to the architect, the academic, the journalist, etc, and was the foundational split between intellectual and manual labor.

Kracauer had a fascination with office culture as a byproduct of employers trying to “determine our domestic political life and thought.” Everything cherished by office workers, from beauty care to the relatively new concept of the “weekend,” to parks and team sports, are all derived from the corporation’s management of the psychic life of employees. His basic point — my most important lesson learned in graduate school, which should have been instinctively obvious (but thank you, nonetheless, grad school) — is that a “cultural commodity” is a contradiction in terms.

Kracauer also attributes the invention of the “personality” to upper management: it is only when one has passed a certain corporate threshold that personality is accepted. Much as the Victorians invented the “Eccentric,” corporate personality is cultivated and praised: “foresight in contriving to be replaceable at all times is recognized.” Office work also creates its own feminine class whose “morally pink complexion” is the inner revelation of perfectly teased hair and manicured nails.

In analyzing the office life of the salariat, Kracauer argues that he’s transcending the limitations of traditional political analysis.

We must rid ourselves of the delusion that it is major events which most determine a person. He is more deeply and lastingly influenced by the tiny catastrophes of which everyday existence is made up, and his fate is certainly linked predominantly to the sequence of these miniature occurrences.

The greatest instance of product placement I’ve ever seen was for Starbucks in the Fight Club movie when the narrator mentions his boss’s daily “grande latte enema.” This is a perfect example of one of the ritual tiny catastrophes that run through an office worker’s daily routine. I’ve read a lot of books on this subject — in fact, that was the subject of my first post on this blog, and once taught a course on this subject — so I think I’ll wonder out loud about the history of “management” literature in the next series of posts. The most recent (fantastic) novel I read on this subject was Ed Park’s Personal Days, and am reading Chip Kidd’s The Learners. But I’ll also take a look at Defoe’s The Complete English Tradesmen and possibly some Frank Norris.

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Tante Astrid

May 21, 2008

I realized a few years ago that I don’t qualify as an authentic Marxist. Not because I deny that wealth needs to be redistributed. It does. For me there is a moral imperative involved as well. Rich people need to be punished. We all know they didn’t get where they are through hard work (I am talking the rule, not fictional exceptions to the rule), and probably fucked someone over, probably many people, in their transcendence of sustainability. Not only do I think there is a moral imperative that the rich be divested of their wealth, punishments for them ought to escalate geometrically according to amount of wealth. A sadistic component infuses my belief system. I saw Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and while I was charmed by its innocence — perhaps a little too swayed by the equation of Eighteenth Century French Royalty with 80s New Wave musicians who looked back to the Eighteenth Century for hair styles and inspiration — I still think that Louis the 16th should have been publicly castrated before he was decapitated and his wife slowly burnt at the stake.

That said, in my ideal purge one rich woman would be spared. That is my Aunt Astrid.

My previous blog posts might give the impression that I was raised without a legitimate mother figure. If that were true — if my biological mother were the sole parental figure in my life — I’d be a raving psychotic or at the bottom of a river somewhere. In reality, my cold Swedish, aunt, was often there for me.

My uncle Samir was of the first post-Nasser generation to be educated in the Egyptian school system. This is back when Egypt sought to create its own, authentic, intelligentsia. Like his 8 brothers and sisters, Samir was trained in multiple languages in school. I know for a fact he knew German and Dutch. Another one of my uncles was a fluent speaker of Russian. My mother came out of high school sounding like a native speaker of French and English (this wanton influence deluded her into strutting around the streets of Cairo, avoiding the steaming brown piles of merde who were her countrymen, while she acted the role of a young Catherine Deneuve). After college, Samir was hired by Honeywell for whom he was constantly on the road. One morning, on a business trip to Stockholm, he passed by a shop window. Astrid, nubile and fresh, was in the middle of putting together the latest display of wares. Samir looked at her, did some quick calculations, and decided “I want that.” He quickly wooed her and brought her back to Egypt. In Cairo, they had a daughter, Sue, and then five years later gave birth to my cousin, Ali, back in Stockholm. Shortly after he was born, they all moved to the United States and learned English together.

I once asked Astrid why she was so quick to get married and move to a foreign land where the language must have been utterly incomprehensible. In her lingering Swedish accent, she answered, “Sweden is boring. I was bored.”

Astrid is always bored. Boredom has been the monotone that sustains her. She flourishes in boredom. Every summer, whether she and Samir, as well as their kids, Sue and Ali, were in Cairo, Alexandria, or later their homes in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, or Singapore, my mother would get “sick” of my brother and I and give herself a vacation of two to three months by mailing us off to Astrid.

Astrid does not hug. Astrid does not smile. Astrid does not read. Astrid shops, gambles, chain smokes, drinks her Heinekins, gets face-lifts and watches her money on MSNBC. I can understand why my cousin is so traumatized by having such an apparently cold mother. I, on the other hand, needed Astrid’s boredom as a relief from my own mother’s constant state of upset. I breathed in her second-hand smoke like it was pure oxygen.

Out of crazed, overt, bitterness, my mother enforced absurd restrictions. As little kids, she strictly forbade us from watching two shows: Three’s Company and The Love Boat. I’m sure she found Three’s Company lewd and of The Love Boat, she would angrily shout, “That’s not how love works!” Astrid knew of these rules so during our summers with her she would actively encourage Ameer and I to sit with the family to watch The Love Boat. Having moved to Egypt when my mother was only 11, Astrid was intimately aware of how full of shit she was.

Once during a road trip to Malaysia from Singapore, we hadn’t eaten all day long and stopped at a mall. Astrid led my brother and I straight to Kentucky Fried Chicken and ordered a meal for each of us. I remember my mother throwing a fit about this. “They can’t eat chicken here. They’re going to get dysentery.” For several minutes, she ranted about dysentery until Astrid put down her fork, looked my mother straight in the eye and asked point blank, “Are you having your period?” At that initiation of hostilities, I yanked my little brother away from his food and cheerily announced, “we’re going to take a look at the record store.”

Astrid and my mother had conflicting beliefs over food. Astrid’s ideology was that we should be allowed to eat. During our summers with her, Ameer and I were always given fresh blueberries with our cereal and chips and raspberries with lunch. We would help Astrid pick tomatoes before she’d send us off to gather berries. She was no normal suburban housewife. She did not socialize with the neighbors or practice fake public warmness. Sure, Samir, on the rare occasions he was home from business trips, would sit down to watch Barney Miller or Welcome Back Kotter and shout out, “Astrid get me some falafel and turkish coffee!” and she would agreeably oblige. Yet she always acted the equal. Once, my mother left us with Astrid while she went on a business trip. It was the usual with a visiting Astrid at our house. Ameer, Astrid and I transitioned into our annual symbiosis, but when my mother came back from the trip early, and caught us in flagrante eating the steak and eggs Astrid cooked us, she began to harangue my aunt: “If you cook them food, they’ll never learn to be independent,” said my Libertarian, Ayn Rand worshiping mother. “They are 8 and 10, retorted Astrid.” “They can make themselves breakfast,” countered my mother. “Not when you don’t leave them with any groceries,” snapped Astrid. It was a seminal moment for me as Astrid stood up for our human right to eat breakfast in peace. With our mother, we never received lunch money or had groceries to use for school lunches. We’d simply binge eat on the rare occasions that she chose not to go to the gym and did some goddamn shopping instead. Eventually, I’d learn to just go do it on my own.

Of me, Astrid will be complimentary: “Looks have never been his problem.” During OJ’s trial (she pronounces it Ooooh Jjjay), she was absolutely convinced of his innocence. She would argue fiercely that OJ had been framed. I used to think this was the most ridiculous thing ever, but at one Thanksgiving I saw how she wielded her OJ love as a deadly weapon. My cousin Sue, now married, still a bitch, had invited the Joneses over. The Joneses were the couple who used to own an identical townhouse down the street and were now invited to the huge new house to stew in thoughts of nowhere-mobility. Every time we saw them, the husband would get sloppy drunk and sentimental. He would blather on to my brother and I how we should learn to appreciate one another because one day we would be the best of friends. He’d tear up talking about how inseparable we would become. Ameer and I were united in our hatred of this guy and our queasiness whenever he spoke to us. There was something vaguely homosexual and incestuous about his fantasy-tinged speeches to us. While he was a disgusting old softie, his Mexican wife was a true barracuda. I would watch her scan the house with her eyes, pricing the furniture and knick-knacks, jealous of the wealth Astrid brought to her daughter’s home. At this Thanksgiving dinner, she sat across from me rattling with jewelry and making a spectacle of herself at the table.

“Did you hear about the blacks and Pioneer Chicken?” she asked everyone. I saw Ali tighten up and look at me. I was the darkest person at the table, and particularly interested in where this was going.

She began to tell us of the latest controversy involving “the blacks” and their social complaints. Apparently, the blacks were complaining that “Pioneer Chicken is making their men impotent.” She commented that this might be a good thing. I remember Sue’s Japanese mother-in-law, Momo, a former Geisha girl during World War II who had been seduced from her husband by a Swedish-American GI, speaking up and asking “Who? Who is the black?” “The BLACKS!” loudly explained her son, Paul. “The African-Americans, Ma!” Ali was wincing, my mother blithely eating, and I, while mentally cursing my brother for being off at Yale and having Thanksgiving with friends, was formulating something especially bilious to say in response. Astrid beat me to the punch. “Do you see that ham you are eating? That ham comes from Oooh Jjjay. It is from his company, Honey Baked. It is a Honey Baked ham.” While I’m sure many at the table probably considered it one of Astrid’s usual non sequiturs, it was obvious she had deflated the rampaging racist across from me. I recall seeing one of Astrid’s rare private smiles almost break out.

It was in Las Vegas where I came out to Astrid. She wasn’t really interested. Pretty bored by it, actually, and wanted to go shopping at Kenneth Cole. The only time I’ve ever seen her animated and happy, though, was a few minutes later when I asked to bum a cigarette off of her. “You smoke? You smoke!?” It was in the parking lot of the Bellagio, where Ali and his ex-wife, Laurel, and I tried to figure out where Astrid belonged in the world.

“What place did you like the best?” we asked. Copenhagen. No. Cairo. No. New Jersey. No. Pennsylvania. No. Singapore. No. California. No.

“Las Vegas. I like Las Vegas. Here I can have my own room, gamble, smoke and eat at the buffet.”

Astrid’s needs are simple. Dat once told me after a dinner with her, “Your aunt smells like money.” “Yeah,” I told him. “When I was a fat kid she’d bribe me to lose weight. A dollar a pound.” Of course, she was totally cheating me. She now lives with her daughter, Sue, son-in-law and three grandkids. She and Sue have made a profession out of shopping. The house is filled with stuff, pelf. She goes to the third world and snaps up Praying Men by Thai artisans, orders rugs woven by poor Indians, covers every square inch of the walls with paintings by Chinese artists, and spends thousands on gifts to her daughter, such as an auctioned Bruce Springsteen guitar. Spending her inheritance makes her happy, or, it fills up the time. She can’t stand being made aware of wasted time. If a hostess ever makes her wait at a restaurant, Astrid will tower above the waitress, simply standing there, glaring through her sunglasses, until the waitress panics and finds a table.

Her views have always been Enlightened but heavily mediated. Ali tells me that at Mother’s Day lunch, she announced, “America is ready for a black President because of the President on 24. His name is Palmer.” Ali told me this, proud that she no longer uses the word “Colored.”

Principles be damned! I have decided that from now on, every Mother’s Day belongs to my Aunt — the only rich person whose life should be spared.

Crazy

May 19, 2008

Alanis didn’t always elicit my respect, but after her cover of of “My Humps” and now with her rendition of Seal’s “Crazy,” I am experiencing a VH1 Moment! New Respect, Alanis. I can now retroactively appreciate your act of popular terrorism with the song “Ironic,” for there was irony in not all of the examples of kinds of irony being ironic.

Her weave in this is especially sexy. Make sure you watch all the way through to see the part where Alanis goes crazy on an ex in the video and has to be dragged out of a party. Watch out for the twist at the end!

Does Kitty Pryde Need Her Mouth Washed Out With Soap?

May 19, 2008

I was recently involved in a skirmish on the Comic Book Resources Forum by asking a tongue-in-cheek question about a serious issue.

The following is the post I made, and then I will discuss responses to it.

Kitty Pryde is one of those smart-mouths who shoots their little potty mouths off at their elders. It started off with her calling the man who saved her life a “Jerk,” but it certainly didn’t end there.

This is how she speaks to her ballet teacher.


Oh, you better run little girl!

Then she dropped the n-bomb on a fellow student.


Which, I guess, was okay. Kitty is allowed to be racist when others are close-minded?

Of course, there was her famous eulogy where she decided to try to offend and shame everyone in the audience.

OMG, INAPPROPRIATE!

How do you feel about Chris Claremont using a 13 year old girl as his racist mouth piece?

Should Storm have washed her mouth out with soap early on? Wasn’t there a Commandant Kitty in Excalibur? I know I remember CC crossing the line with alternate reality, Concentration Camp Kitty.

And now in New Exiles, we have Blackface Kitty.

Enough is enough! When a teenager crosses the Language Line like that, punishment is required. Otherwise, you’ll get bratty little adults who think it’s ok to smart off to the boss!


……………………………………………….

The reaction to this was legendary.

The Europeans accused me of political correctness:

I knew abou faggot, but Spic is new to me… I wonder if as a spanish I get to be a Spic or do you have a special insult to europeans?

To write n**** word does not make sense to me… Is it that bad that you can not even write it when talking about the subject?

And,

America is the most PC nation in the world…

There must be a different, more radical, kind of youtube in Europe.

Many of CC’s black fans were up in arms about my “carefully cropping” and selecting the images. Yes, I only used images where she says “Nigger.”

Context was all important. When Kitty uses nigger, spic, etc., she’s at the funeral for a mutant student who had killed himself because people had called him names. Awwwww. Thanks for your very special funeral speech, Kitty. It was practically the Gettysburg Address. Honestly, Claremont, under no circumstances does one speak that way at a funeral unless one is a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. But “context” is king. It pre-exists my panel selection.
Here is CC’s wisdom on display:

Who was he then, that we gather together to mourn him? Who am I? A four-eyed, flat chested, brat, chick, brain, hebe, stuck up Xavier’s freak! Don’t like the words? I could use nicer. I’ve heard worse, who here hasn’t? So often, so casually, maybe we’ve forgotten the power they have to hurt. Nigger, spic, faggot, mutie, the list is so long and so cruel. They’re labels, put down-downs. And they hurt.

I’ve heard that spicy food makes a man’s cum taste sweet. Same with context. Enough of it and CC is able to drop a palatable monthly load down thousands of reader’s throats.

Of course it went out of control when I suggested that CC himself, Guardian of POCs (People of Color), was a racist. After all, why couldn’t I see that Kitty was just trying to show that the word mutie, in the context of the story, was just as hurtful as nigger? Never mind that mutie ridiculously sounds like “cutie.” It’s a good thing she can go intangible, because that kind of pedagogy is a good way to get your face broken. Obviously, I must have been “trolling” the discussion with that kind of willful misunderstanding of CC’s wonderful intentions.

I objected to CC’s shock tactics to make a trite, after school special, point, viz., “intolerance is bad,” as well as to keep his comic in the number 1 slot. Do you really think he was trying to spread peace on earth and good-will towards men?

Yes, of course, CC, black people should continue to bear the burden of representation for all minorities, even fictional ones! Claremont is the only comic writer I know who can script the word “nigger” and still delude himself into thinking he’s Martin Luther King Jr.

His African-American following is especially disturbing, but I was glad to see that a few black comic fans found these panels unacceptable “in context” and out.

At an early point, we explored the question of Libertarianism since CC is a Libertarian who over-privileges the autonomy (ooops, I mean “sovereignty”) of the self. It upset some people when I called Libertarians a business-worshipping religious cult, and suggested that Slavery was a business the Libertarian Party would have had no problem deregulating. ‘How dare you discuss politics,’ came the outcry! Those Sado-Libertarians LOVE blacks, though they do not agree it’s OK to regulate forms of discrimination, such as Whites Only Signs, etc… .

One guy with a Heath Ledger in Joker mascara avatar felt qualified enough as an arbiter of aesthetic judgment to suggest that it was in “bad taste” to attack CC for what he had written 20 years ago. The 20 years ago thing came up again and again, as one defender of CC wrote:

You guys do realize these stories were told 25 years ago, yes?

Do you know what comics were like at that time, let alone society…

Ah yes, comics 25 years ago. I remember. Every week I’d go hiking in Santa Monica to look at the latest paintings on the cave walls.

When I had the temerity to suggest that the context-lovers were ignoring their viscera and sublimating their reaction to the panels in a futile quest for some consolation, an undergraduate had the nerve to lecture me on Anthropology! He objected to my use of the word hymen in reference to ethnographies. “Hymen is not a technical anthropological term,” he cried out. Foul! Foul! He would know since he’s read 8 ethnographies and his professor is widely published. A Jean Grey fan with a Greg Land drawn avatar was angry that I would use sexualized language like Hymen. Yes, someone represented with Porn Star Jean Grey felt that I did not sound sufficiently professorial and objective. Hymens have no place in academic speech!

Claremontian Scum lecturing me on literary/anthropological criticism? It’s really too absurd.*

I feel I need to cleanse my palate. Discussing Chris Claremont and Reginald Hudlin recently has been like a toxic overload. I can feel my T-Cell count plummeting in the vicinity of their comic books. Thank God, I just read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Margaret Atwood, you are the AZT to my Claremontian auto-immune deficiency! More on her lovely piece of fiction shortly.

*special thanks to Ben and Josef F. for standing up to retarded Creator Worship.

Lecture Notes

May 15, 2008

X-Men: Legacy #211
Mike Carey – Writer
Scott Eaton – Pencils

GeNext #1
Chris Claremont – Creator/Writer
Patrick Scherberger – Lowly Penciler

I’ve never read a comic before that left me feeling as if I should have taken notes. However, “Mister Information,” Professor Mike Carey just gave another intricate lecture. I thought class wasn’t going to be in session for two more weeks, but we seem to be on an accelerated schedule here as Marvel tries to power through the slog of Professor Xavier’s search for himself.

I didn’t realize that Professor Carey was a scat fetishist because I feel like he just took an info-dump all over me. “Novaya, I think I missed what he just said. Can I see your notes after class?” “Tucker, we should all totally have a study session before the final!”

This issue was all over the place while nothing really happened. Yet, as Professor Carey likes to stress: true scholarship is in the details. Charles Xavier’s step-brother, Cain Marko, feels someone ominously trying to enter his mind and vows to get revenge in the morning. It’s important to get a full night’s sleep first before going out to fuck your enemies up. In the meantime, Charles wet-dreams about his sexy twin sister, Cassandra Nova, leading to a flashback depicting their brief fetus-hood together….

Look Whose Talking

Wait? A sexy dream about Cassandra Nova?

Cassandra’s soft, aerobicized, side?

In fact, yes. Cassie calls Charles “sweet” and instead of her usual safari wear and mustache, we get a sexy, waxed, Cassie all done up in a skin-tight pink unitard.

This just isn’t right. Where are the signature khakis and pith helmet? Cassandra Nova does not call anyone, least of all her brother, “sweet.” She smack-talks them into submission while looking absolutely terrifying. She is an angry, psychotic, adult-fetus hell-bent on revenge. She does not walk around in pumps!

Cassandra is Terrifying

Cassandra does get in a couple of bitchy lines. One about how Charles woefully neglected his now dead son and she ludicrously brings up the alien brood baby that Charles was infected with. He had the alien monster baby aborted before it came to term. Cassie’s aim is to drown him in Paternal Shame. Why he would feel guilt over aborting a disgusting parasite, I don’t really get? Understandably, Cassandra would have strong feelings about abortion since Charles did try to murder her in the womb, but I can’t imagine why he would mourn the death of his worm-looking alien baby. Despite her critical tone, none of the dialog captures Cassandra’s truly menacing voice.

At the end of his dream, Professor Carey writes in a revelation for Charles. Cassandra asks, “Perhaps you are more comfortable with monsters. Because they absolve you of any duty to care. And reduce everything to your favorite dialectic of control.” Suddenly, Professor Carey’s lecture was interrupted by this stuck-up bitch in the front row. She raised her hand and all snottily asked how Xavier’s life “is bound up in a ‘dialectic of control,’ when it seems to me that he’s experiencing classic Freudian fort/da — back and forth, loss and mastery — without the synthetic experience of psychoanalytic therapy to transform it into an authentic dialectic.” You should have seen Professor Carey shoot that bitch down. “This is neither the time nor the place to explain the Hegelian Dialectic to you properly. May I continue with my lecture?”

Next up, Charles goes to visit his old childhood friend Carter Alexander Ryking in a mental asylum. This is really too much. Carter, a.k.a. Hazard, came from one of the worst X-Men stories of all time. It has been relegated to a footnote not because it’s too much to get into, but because it’s just stupid. This was the 90s, when they were moodily alluding to ominous pasts for all their characters instead of writing beefy stories full of content. Well, thankfully Professor Carey is here to flesh out the Ryking story. It was all a little above my head but it seems that a supervillain named Mister Sinister may have worked with Ryking and Xavier’s fathers at the nuclear power plant when they were boys. Their parents knew they were mutants and allowed Mister Sinister to conduct medical experiments on them… Hey! Are you awake? I’m not done reviewing the lecture with you! The action is just about to heat up.

Because when Charles leaves the mental hospital he “senses” a sniper aiming at him. In one of the most original uses of telepathic powers I’ve ever seen in a comic book, Charles telepathically controls a flock of pigeons to disrupt the sniper’s concentration while he books it to his rental car!

High 2D Action!

Isolated and deranged, as usual, Charles muses some more about his past… … … … …

We cut to a board meeting at the Hellfire Club. Business is conducted.

Oh, and at the end he senses “some holes” in the “mental landscape” and realizes that more people are trying to sneak up to kill him. Luckily, Gambit shows up in the last panel to stop the killers and save the day.

Yeah, Gambit. I’m not really fond of him. I used to think it was a sign of nascent mental retardation on his part that he would start a sentence in English, but finish it off with a word in French such as “cher” or “homme.” Professor Carey explained it to me in office hours, though. By naming the gender of his interlocuters in a foreign language, Gambit is “troubling” their sense of gender identity. By verbally rocking their foundations — in this scene, questioning the masculinity of his opponents — his enemies are much more apt to get hurt by the playing cards Gambit uses as weapons.

Furthermore, Professor Carey showed me that Gambit is clearly a Russian Formalist in the tradition of V.N. Volosinov and M.H. Bakhtin. Gambit’s patois demonstrates that all language is hybrid. His every utterance shows that one language relies on assimilating another for that vernacular flavor we crave. “Gambit’s speech patterns are by no means stupid, or stereotypical, or contrived. Rather, they show us the ‘contamination’ of one language by another that is masked by standard, authoritarian, thought balloon. Gambit shows us the fluidity in our rigid language.”

I don’t know… Sometimes I get uncomfortable about Professor Carey’s work. I know he’s an acclaimed indie writer, and, sure, I did defend him even after he wrote Confessions of a Blabbermouth — a graphic novel (from the MINX imprint by DC) for teens that alludes to incest, which he co-wrote with his fifteen year old daughter. It’s just that he seems so influenced by his dissertation adviser, anti-writer, Chris Claremont.

Claremont’s wild theories and unrestrained fetishism have made him a laughing stock. Still, he someone how got two new comics out this week that his fantards are gobbling up. Let’s discuss his #1 issue, GeNext. Some background is necessary. A couple of years ago, Marvel Comics polled its readers to ask what new X-Related series they’d like him to write. Several options were presented, even though there was no “None of the Above.” The option that won out was “What if the X-Men had Aged in Real Time? What would the new students look like 30 years later?” Or something inane like that. The Chris Claremont decided he would not be bound by mere poll options and decided to write what he wanted anyway. His creative genius fell upon a unique idea. He would turn the new series into a continuation of his bloated, 18 part, X-Men: The End, which followed the X-Men on their excruciating final adventure. Apparently, 18 issues entitled “The End” were not sufficient for him to complete his opus. So now we have GeNext. Carey learned to write sprawling epic at the feat of the master, CC.

GeNext is such blatant sequel abuse that Sylvester Stallone looks like a petty criminal in comparison! Moreover, it’s an opportunity for Claremont to wreak bloody vengeance upon those who have wronged him. A couple of years ago, editorial yanked Claremont’s baby, Storm, out of his hands for a mandated wedding with the Black Panther.

The ad-campaign for the wedding reeked of desperation. You could see the marketers emoting the private editorial discussions of the marriage. Savvy readers could hear Joe Queseda screaming at the underling who objected, “But they have nothing in common. Storm and T’Challa are from different parts of Africa. She grew up as a pickpocket while he was a prince.” “Idiot!,” retorted Quesada, “I don’t care if they have nothing in common. Haven’t you ever seen Aladdin? They’re both niggers! They don’t need anything else in common!”

Storm belonged to CC. He took a virginal girl-child from the mountains of Kenya who had never worn clothes before and who hid her boobies behind rain clouds. He taught her how to fist, gave her a mohawk, paid for the motor oil injections into her lips and buttocks — transforming her into the transsexual, chicken-sacrificing, alterno-kink, Claremazon Goddess she is today.

Now Storm is being written in The Black Panther comic, by B.E.T. (Black Entertainment Television) executive, Reginald Hudlin. He’s by no means a more god-awful writer than CC though his personality and politics are, it’s difficult to believe, even more grotesque. I’m convinced that he doesn’t actually script the comic himself. Scripting is done by Hudlin’s office temps and delivered to Hudlin with his morning latte. If there aren’t enough scenes with Storm shrimping T’Challa or ironing his underwear, Hudlin loses his shit and throws his hot latte back into the lackey’s face. Then he goes back to publicly feuding with Aaron McGruder.

That diva, CC, was outraged to be dispossessed of Storm. In the final issue he wrote of her, he had his pet characters voice their reservations about the wedding. In an act of revenge, Hudlin wrote a scene in The Black Panther where T’Challa has a nightmare in which he catches Storm at a jungle orgy with all of Claremont’s pet characters.

Their feud continues with GeNext #1. Here we are introduced to Storm’s daughter, Becka Munroe. Becka is a sweet girl who wants nothing of the violence of the X-Men’s life (There is an implication that Beast is her father. Yes, Storm once rolled around in the kitty litter with him). Even though her wig looks taped on, Patrick Scherberger’s drawing of her is adorable. Becka is a tulip rising from between the buttocks of a slain rent-boy. It’s a shame that CC is going to violate the living shit out of her.

Becka Munroe is clearly a weapon in CC’s long-term revenge plan against Hudlin for stealing Storm from him. Outwardly, this book is packaged as a teen-love story, and I’m sure Marvel will market the completed product as such. In fact, it’s a seedy piece of teen sexploitation. One of the “straight” boys at the school — Gambit’s son, Olivier — already slipped her the tongue on the last page. I’m sure he’ll be fingerbanging Becka by issue 3. What completes the revenge is that CC has taken Storm’s daughter, and in a blatant act of racism he has literally made her into a spear chucker!

I would not be surprised if the original script called for a banana in Becka’s left hand here, but Scherberger tastefully attempts to hide CC’s excesses. Not that he could do anything about the dialog tics. As usual, straight guys use the word “girl” on several pages. There’s no “Give it to Mama” this issue, but don’t rush CC. He’ll fit it in.

I’d Tap That

May 11, 2008

Josef F. ignited controversy yesterday when he casually mentioned that he’d “tap that,” in reference to Anthony Stuart Head’s Rocky Horror performance.

I support his declaration, and I, too, would tap that. Head’s got loads of sex-appeal in those fishnets. I wouldn’t object to some intergenerational copulation with him. Even if only for the bad puns.

However, the question arises: What is his agent thinking? Absolutely, there is a good living in only having sub-cultural cachet, and Head doesn’t seem infected with the torrid disease of ambition. Is it intentional, though? I wonder, did Head give strict instructions to his management to stick to coffee commercials, free cable channel cult television shows and Rocky Horror revivals?

Out of Treatment, My Mother’s Vagina Came First

May 7, 2008

Michael the Therapist asked why I had to go to the dentist.

— Because of the Conference on Depression, I cracked a tooth.
— How did a conference crack your tooth?
— Sigh…

There was a Conference on Depression that I decided to attend — because I am depressed — even though I was not presenting. Normally, I don’t go to these things unless I’m involved somehow. Anyway, I knew a few people from the Art Institute who were going to be giving papers. I met them when I interviewed that Palestinian Journalist a couple of years ago for their video archives. I decided to arrive early and mingle with them.

“You’re not usually so social,” commented Michael.

“I can be a butterfly when need be,” I explained.

— Plus, I was bored with sitting around at home watching Star Trek re-runs.

When I got the conference, I saw that they had a tray of bagels sitting out. The university provides the same food for every event, and I knew they’d have these. I hadn’t eaten breakfast. I was talking to someone I knew when I bit into the bagel. The bagel was so hard that it cracked my tooth. I felt this sharp, intense, pain and shouted out. Then I asked around if anyone had a Tylenol or aspirin on them. But none of them had one. The two people from the Art Institute acted all aghast that I wanted an aspirin. They harangued me for “dependence on the Pharmaceutical Industry.”

— Because you wanted an aspirin?

YES! Assholes!!! I even asked Kat, an acquaintance who helped organize the event. I thought all women carry painkillers around for their periods. No one had one. While the speakers were all condemning me, including some lady I never even met from Austin, Kat gave me a sad, condescending, look. As if I were “the problem.” I was furious! I can’t remember ever being so angry. I already knew what this conference was going to be about. “Depression is socially constructed,” or something equally insipid. I was ready to start yelling, “Fuck all of you! If you people hadn’t taken your Prozac this morning, you’d be huddling in the corners of your hotel rooms, weeping.”

— You didn’t say that, did you?
— No. I was in too much pain. But I was right about the conference. I walked out on the first paper because she was delivering the same Foucauldian line about mental illness being a social construct.
— I take it you don’t believe that.
— Obviously, neither do you. I was in the suicide ward, remember? I’ve seen true mental illness, and it sure as hell wasn’t socially constructed. Plus, I hate hate hate everything Michel Foucault ever wrote. It’s all eloquent gibberish. He’s the kind of thinker with a Humanities training who instrumentalizes any other field he can get his hands on, even if he doesn’t fully understand it.

At this point, I stopped talking.
— You’ve gone quiet.
— Oh, I was just thinking about when I was in the suicide ward, and Michael called but refused to visit. How he told me “I was about to get back together with you, and then you go and do this to yourself. I could never be with anyone who could try to kill himself.”
— You never told me he said that.
— Yeah, it’s what he said.
— That’s fucked up.
— Yeah. What bothers me about it was that he made the whole attempt about him. It was his way of taking even that away from me. When it was really about me. It was my thing. My act. He’s too narcissistic to understand that. He’s such a fucking asshole!

I began to cry.
After a couple of minutes Michael the Therapist said, “I’ve never seen you cry before. This is the first time you’ve cried in session.”
— I never cry.
— Really? Are you exaggerating?
— It’s true. I don’t cry. It doesn’t do any good. I was raised to believe crying is ‘manipulative.’
— Still, children cry.
— I didn’t.
— That’s difficult to believe.

When I was about five or six, I explained to Michael, my mom took me to the dentist for a cavity. I don’t really remember the incident — probably because I was anesthetized — but the dentist screwed up; he drilled into my gums. He was fairly panicked about it. I remember, afterwards, he was trying his best to placate my mom. I don’t know why he bothered. She was very blasé about it. I guess he was worried she would sue him or something. Knowing her, she probably bartered my missing piece of gums for a discount. In the car, on the way home, my mom blamed me for the accident.

— How was it your fault?

It’s because, according to her, when I was a baby I would cry a lot at night for my bottle. She never got up. ‘Crying was your way of manipulating me and your father. Your father always fell for it. All that milk he would give you rotted your teeth. I used to tell him not to indulge you so much.’ I guess, while she sat in bed, my dad would bring me the bottle. She thinks that this caused milk-rot. I think my dad, being an obstetrician, knows how much milk to give a baby. But she thinks that her assessment is objective since my brother never ever gets cavities, and my dad was already out of the picture shortly after he was born. I have no memory of them at the same time. I remember my father, and then I remember my brother. Never both of them at once. I really don’t know why she thinks Ameer got any more or less milk as a baby than I did since Ameer was my Aunt and cousin’s pet project, not hers. I didn’t have “milk-rot.” I was just lackadaisical about brushing my teeth, whereas Ameer — because is a robot in all ways — is very methodical about brushing.

— So your mom blamed your cavity on your crying as an infant?
— Yeah, she used to go on about how I’ve always been manipulative since I was a baby. And she’d rant about how I cried. Gawd, she’s a total bitch. Oh! Also, her other line is “you’ve always been aggressive. Ameer never punched me when he was in the womb.” Get that? I didn’t kick. I was ‘punching’ her. I guess even as a fetus, I knew how to throw a punch.
— I can see why you don’t talk to her.
— Which doesn’t stop her from butting into my life. Lately, she is convinced I am bi-polar. She keeps sending me “literature” on bi-polarity.
— You’re not bi-polar.
— Really? I’d hate for her to be right for once.
— If you were bi-polar you’d have experienced severe and immediate side-effects from the Adderall.
— Other than the side-effects I am experiencing?
— Far worse.
— I see.
— Why does your mom think she knows anything about psychiatry?
— Because that bitch is a know-it-all. Also, she became a nurse in a mental institution after she married my dad. Can you imagine? She worked there while I was in the womb. Think of the level of neurosis I was exposed to even before I was born!
— I’d like to discuss your feelings about how your mother put her needs before yours.
— What’s to discuss?

Ever since I was a little boy, I understood that my mom’s vagina came first. She never let my brother walk around alone. I always had to walk him to Little League. But me, even when I was very young, she always sent to the store whenever she was having her period. I was supposed to go there by myself and “ask for ibuprofen.” It was always very ominous. She’d be sitting in her room with the lights off, and would scream my name. I’d come running into the room and she’d ask me — either politely or angrily — to go to the store to get her some ibuprofin.

— How did it make you feel when she asked you to do this?
— Oh, I suppose at the time, I was glad I felt needed and important. I think, at first, I was confused because I didn’t know if ibuprofen was an English or Arabic word. She would use Arabic with me, but not Ameer since he never learned it as a kid. This would lead to difficulties if I, for example, were to ask for something in Arabic at the store and not be able to pinpoint an item in English. Yeah, so I felt important. Later, I remember being annoyed at her lack of preparation. The annoyance is what helped me learn to start standing up to her. I mean, why did she wait till she got cramps before getting the stuff? Since she was raised in Egypt, from a cultural perspective, it was very slutty and inappropriate for her to involve anyone in the business of her cramps. She was pretty trampy when I was a kid. She’d be out for all hours, staying out till 2AM a lot. I’d make dinner for brother and I, and make sure he went to bed. I once walked into her room one Saturday and found some guy in her bed. Come to think of it, he looked a lot like the dentist who cut my gums. They both had a Magnum P.I. look. I wonder if it was the same guy?

For a long time, we lived in terror of her. Whenever Ameer and I would hear the garage door open, we’d start throwing all our toys and action figures into a blanket. Then, while he wrapped the blanket up into a sack and swung it into the corner of his room, I’d be wiping down the kitchen counters. He’d come back and switch the channel from cartoons to the news. We had a system. Sometimes one of us would make the mistake of speaking to her when she was opening the mail, and she’d scream that she didn’t need to be assaulted right after she walked through the door.

My mother always complained that my father — who delivered me — gave her a never-ending episiotomy after I was born. He kept sewing her tighter and tighter. Eventually, she had to warn him that if he put in one more stitch, he would never touch her again. She always told this story. I would say her vagina was central in my childhood imaginary.

— I think we made some progress today. How do you feel?
— Vague. I’m surprised I cried. I don’t feel embarrassed about it.
— You shouldn’t.
— And you shouldn’t tell me how to feel.

Coming Soon in Out of Treatment!

The End is Nigh!

Sicko de Mayo

May 6, 2008

I called in sick yesterday after sleeping my weekend away in a flu haze. I’d been sluggish for a week, probably due to constant exposure from a sick co-worker. He has children. I believe children are the root of all disease. They all go to Chuck-E-Cheese together to roll around in those germ filled ball-pits. Then they give their hybrid, mutated, diseases to their parents. I would be a very unpopular parent, I think, for I would ban Chuck-E-Cheese from my children’s lives.

The thing is, I never call in sick. Even at my worst, I usually drag myself in for a while. I do not have the cojones that the rest of the American work-force does when it comes to just blowing off work for the sake of their health or for personal reasons. In fact, I am so neurotic about it, that I worried that I did not sound sick enough to speak to my boss in only a semi-sick state. To remedy this, I sprinkled cayenne pepper and black pepper into a plate before calling him. Then I threw that mixture into the air and breathed it in. My glasses acted as goggles to protect my eyes. Though I did not succeed in an on-call sneeze, I did certainly sound fucked up. I also learned that cayenne pepper is the way to go should I ever want to kick my caffeine addiction, because that stuff cleared my head fast!


The flu truly impaired me last week. I could not think clearly. My reactions to everything were dull. I kept trying to think of a good image of how sick I felt. Then I remembered the issue of New X-Men when Cassandra Nova, Professor Xavier’s evil twin sister, injected various diseases into herself and then traded bodies with her brother. He looks like how I felt.

What did Charles do to deserve such mistreatment as the hands of his sister? Good question, reader! After many issues of sadism directed from his smack-talking dandy of a super-villain of a sister, we eventually learn that in the womb, Charles’s first act as a conscious being was to try to choke her to death with an umbilical cord.


The panels of the battling feti are my favorite comic book images of all-time. Poor Cassandra defended herself with her first use of telepathic abilities, but self-defense only led to her tragic miscarriage.* Room only for one of them in that womb. Cassandra spent the next forty years as a conscious slime-mold on a sewer wall, plotting revenge against her brother. Seriously, that psychotic fetus is the best comic book creation ever conceived. Just looking at that rage-filled fetus gives me the strength to venture out in the world today.

Cassandra Nova Xavier, I love you, baby. You are my aesthetic cayenne pepper.


*Edit: Upon a closer look, it seems as if fetus-Charles is the one telepathically attacking, and not the other way around. Cassandra is completely victimized by her pacifist brother. It’s almost enough to make you want to send mutant hunting robots to exterminate 16 million mutants to make a point.

Positions

May 2, 2008

While I work on longer entries, I considered posting something about Chris Claremont’s latest masterpiece, New Exiles #5 — the issue where Sage gets drunk, takes a bath and (seriously) wonders where her vibrator went.

With two sexually aggressive shape-shifters on the team, I’d make sure to double-check that vibrator if I were you, Sage. Fortunately for me, other bloggers have already addressed this issue in detail, from Sage throwing her bath towel aside and diving into a fight, to Captain (Kitty) America, to bestiality and black-face Kitty Pryde. I will forgo exploring the real question New Exiles #5 poses for Art History; whether Chris Claremont’s work should now be treated as an extreme form of Outsider Art — beyond the normal confines of social normativity — aside the likes of Henry Darger and Michael Jackson? I’ll leave that question to simmer, but in the meantime, let’s see what Claremont’s successor on the X-titles has been up to.

Has it really been an entire month since Mike Carey saved me money on my ambien prescription? Today, I’d like to revisit X:Men Legacy to see how Professor Xavier and Co., are faring. I know you’re wondering if the pace has stepped up. And to your query, I will respond that you clearly know nothing about modernist, avant-garde, “comix.” This issue, even though Charles has taken a bullet to the brain, a silver-age icon refuses to be kept down. With his brain repaired and memories shattered and splintered, Charles steps in just in time to save a de-powered Magneto from Exodus. If you’ll recall, last month Magneto blinded Frenzy in her attempt to execute pacifist Charles Xavier before he could wake up (presumably, Frenzy is still writhing around on the ground. We don’t see her). For this crime, leader of the Acolytes and former magnetic-obsessive and toadie, Exodus, decides to execute Magneto for the “human” crime of harming a mutant. This issue is the psychic battle between Charles and Exodus. Basically, it consists of page after page of Exodus trying to guilt Xavier into submission by throwing one bad memory after another at Charles. Yeah, so nothing really happens. All this is a re-mix of fragmentary moments from over the years, as we’ve been getting for the past few issues.

This socio-political analysis rivets me

Clearly, the editors knew this schtick would be wearing on readers, so to spice things up, they mixed shitty Scott Eaton art of the present-day moments with Greg Land art on the memories. If you don’t know Land, you should. His work is a testament to Post-Modern Porn. Land has made a name for himself by working on high profile comic books by tracing images for his photo-realistic art. Sure, I know that artists trace. They have always traced and no modern day artist works without some form of photo-reference. I hang out in an animation firm where one of the guys specializes in 2D. He once brought me to his desk after proudly showing me his reel and book. He wanted me to know that the Victoria Secret catalogs “are there for a reason,” and to assure me “I’m not a pervert. These are just so that I draw women anatomically correctly.” He was so proud of his research efforts that I couldn’t burst his bubble. Land is different. He doesn’t just trace other people’s images. He’s been shown to have traced other artist’s work in the most shameless fashion. He also traces porn.

Yes. He traces.porn.for.comic.books. Just think about that for a second, because it blows my mind. Clearly, his work is in-demand for specific demographic comic book marketers have in mind. New readers are the goal, but these readers are to be the same straight dudes in their early 20s, probably who work in IT, and who have some spare cash lying around after buying the latest Grand Theft Auto release. When I say he traces porn, I mean something beyond the Disneyfied fauxrotica of Sage shaving her legs in the tub and looking around for her dildo. When I look at Greg Land art, I no longer see the story. I only see the positions.

Here Charles recalls the brutal death of his student Suzanne Chan, also known as Sway.

Deep-Throated to Death

The in-story reason for her existence was that before recruiting the All-New, All Racist and National Stereotyped X-Men, such as Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, etc., — all of whom have become iconic — to save the original X-Men on the living island of Krakoa, Xavier sent a team of untrained teenagers into action. This led to a massacre. Sway’s death, along with her team-mate, Petra, is supposed to be a tragic moment in Charles’ life. The way it’s depicted here, though, all gravitas is lost when laminated to this moment of blatant cock-sucking. Charles also sees a vision of Petra and Sway accusing him of murder.

Death by fire is orgasmic!

Except Petra and Sway actually look like their having fun. Perhaps they are singing karaoke? Dying is a party, especially when it involves a faux-lesbian dance. Land’s replay of Jean Grey’s tragic death made me LOL (then again, I have lol’d on the multiple occasions of Jean’s death).

Anal?

LAAAAND!!!! Jean Grey is not a porn-star! Jean Grey is the worst, and it amuses me to think her character “takes it from behind.” However, when I was a little boy reading the original story, this interpretation would not have occurred to me. And, really, a young kid doesn’t need to be prompted into thinking of this. While Jean Grey’s death could give a higher profile to sodomy, plausibly opening a few teenage minds about their closed orifices, I think there are some unhealthy side-effects to this kind of imagery.

Comic books make a mockery of death. Fictional characters come back over and over again. It’s like Nietzsche’s principle of eternal recurrence. The universe, according to Nietzsche, is eternal. We should treat life as if it is something that is going to happen to us in exactly the same way, on repeat. So, get it right the first time, — get out of first gear now — because you’re going to run through this routine infinitely. In the tee vee show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this was actually mined in an interesting way. Buffy was resurrected twice — both times against her will. She felt her sacrifice had been cheapened and that life had become mere show. Comic book resurrections of characters run them through the same dynamics for each new reading generation. Jean Grey has died 11 times? I will have to check some comic book forums to verify that number. Mike Carey is supposed to be writing Charles’ big redemptive wake-up call, but these pastiches of the deaths he’s caused completely undermine the narrative goal. It’s not just that something is lost in the tracing — porn is about faking the “little death,” — but a trace of something passes through the porn. Instead of seeing true death out of the corner of your eye, what comes through the trace is a fetish instead of the real thing. Cheap death passes through.


I actually felt something when I first read the deaths pictured above. Now all I can do is roll my eyes and flip the page a little harder than usual. Also, the story does not mark how ego-centric it is of Charles to blame himself for all these deaths. He’s not the center of the story! He’s just some fat ass who sat in a wheel-chair for twenty years and graded report cards!

No one dares fire THE Greg Land! An editor who refuses to give Land work should fear that he will trace their wife or daughter into his latest porn set-piece.

Back to the comic: Charles ends up winning the fight (as if that was ever in doubt). And nothing else happens. Oh, wait, there’s an epilogue. Rogue shows up again at the end. She’s been missing from comics for an eternity of two months. We close in on Australia, and in this action-packed scene, Rogue pumps gas.

Scott Eaton drew this scene, so all we get are Rogue’s blow-job lips. If Land had been given this page, she’d literally be blowing the guy. But, Rogue, listen to the gas station attendant. You can’t fly anymore. Buy an extra can of gas.

Carey is clearly CC’s successor in that he’s plotting for the long-term and isn’t fearful of boring readers. This epic story-line is plotted out for ‘at least’ the next twelve issues, and might continue onwards if he’s given the thumbs up.

Please, no thanks.