Monday, July 30, 2007

Ingmar's Last Chess Game

Farewell today to Ingmar Bergman. His films often erred on the side of inaccessibility or academia, and served as fodder for countless parodies and comedy sketches, but there could be little argument about his virtuosity or his hunger to reinvent, to tirelessly explore the human condition.

We were fortunate to have his work, any way you look at it.

So long, Ingmar.

Goodbye Costumes, Hello Boob Jobs

Another year of San Diego overload has come and gone. For the most part, I survived, and was able to eke out a few conversations here and there, but things tend to come in sound bites, the indigenous tongue of the pop culture festival.

Still, say what you will about the desperation, the collections, the capitalizing on the misguided dreams of youths long past: there were some bad ass, hilarious, and outlandish costumes, often all three simultaneously. And for every costume, no matter the genre or quality, there were six sweaty fans to document it (and, as often as possible, me documenting the documentarians... if I didn't already have my camera aimed at some too-bizarre-for-words costume team ups like the (above) Ugly Doll that was accosted by DVD promoting Vikings).

When not letting my jaw go slack from costume absorption, I was fortunate enough to sign with Tony Millionaire, Los Bros Hernandez, Josh Simmons, and Ben Catmull. Good people all around. And at The Tick booth I signed with that inimitable man from Massachusetts, Bob Polio, longtime art director for The Tick. Bob is a barker's barker, and could sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo, in a cold snap, when the Eskimo is dead... and there's no refrigerator. To say he is animated is to say the grand canyon's a ditch. But, again, good people! Thanks to Juliane for taking a picture of me (with Mr. Polio to my left) doing my best stab at the blue clad lunkhead.

But enough of fantasy and escapism... it's on to Los Angeles, the home of... well, more fantasy and escapism. Oh, well. More on the land of fake breasts and leathery facades shortly.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

San Diego, Your Times Have Come

The time has come for the parade of wookies, wizards, and woebegone collectors. San Diego Comic-Con is upon us, and I once again will dart in and out as quickly as possible, trying to maintain some semblance of sanity (and picking up some cool toys, hopefully).

The signing times for the Fantagraphics table are below (I'm from 12 to 2 each day, though I may also come in a bit earlier on Friday). The only non-Fantagraphics signing I'll be doing is at the Tick booth (it's true: I drew a one page strip for their 20th anniversary collection) from 2 to 3 pm on Friday (directly after the signing at Fantagraphics).

I'll have original art and a look of existential confusion. Stop by and give both the once over.

10:00 Craig Yoe
11:00 R.C Harvey * Craig Yoe * Dame Darcy
12:00 R.C Harvey * Paul Hornschemeier * Paul Karasik * Tim Hensley
1:00 Ben Catmull * Paul Hornschemeier * Paul Karasik * Tim Hensley
2:00 Ben Catmull * Cathy Malkasian * Ellen Forney * Johnny Ryan
3:00 Tony Millionaire * Cathy Malkasian * Ellen Forney * Johnny Ryan
4:00 Tony Millionaire * Gilbert Hernandez * Jaime Hernandez * Mario Hernandez
5:00 Josh Simmons * Gilbert Hernandez * Jaime Hernandez * Mario Hernandez
6:00 Josh Simmons * Steven Weissman * Dame Darcy * Jordan Crane

10:00 R.C. Harvey * Paul Karasik
11:00 R.C. Harvey * Paul Karasik
12:00 Tony Millionaire * Paul Hornschemeier * Ellen Forney
1:00 Tony Millionaire * Paul Hornschemeier * Ellen Forney
2:00 Walt Holcombe * Johnny Ryan * Ben Catmull * Josh Simmons
3:00 Walt Holcombe * Johnny Ryan * Ben Catmull * Josh Simmons
4:00 Gilbert Hernandez * Jaime Hernandez * Steven Weissman * Jordan Crane
5:00 Gilbert Hernandez * Jaime Hernandez * Steven Weissman * Dame Darcy
6:00 Ellen Forney * Craig Yoe * Dame Darcy

10:00 Ellen Forney * Ben Catmull
11:00 Ellen Forney * Ben Catmull
12:00 Jaime Hernandez * Gilbert Hernandez * Paul Hornschemeier
1:00 Jaime Hernandez * Gilbert Hernandez * Paul Hornschemeier
2:00 Jordan Crane * Craig Yoe * Josh Simmons
3:00 Craig Yoe * Josh Simmons

Friday, July 20, 2007

Arks on Spin, Arks on Stage, Apologies to Nathan

Today Arks is the Artist of the Day on Spin Magazine's web site. The photo used on the site is not by Nathan Keay. My apologies to Nathan (though I had nothing to do with the final photo selection), as Nathan was kind enough to sit through our WLUW recording session, take innumerable shots of us jumping around like idiots in an alley, and eat something calling itself nachos at Hollywood Grill at an ungodly hour afterward.

But Nathan (who took the pictures at the head and foot of this post), and everyone else is invited to our show tonight at Double Door here in Chicago. Though I'm only buying Nathan a drink, the rest of you can fend for yourselves.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Don Adams Appreciation Society

Sometimes you just get to thinking about Don Adams. I don't know when I first got a sampling of his voice or his deadpan delivery, but it never gets old for me. Someone please release a massive box set containing all of these:

Get Smart

Tennessee Tuxedo

Inspector Gadget

Is that too much to ask? Well, I've asked. Modesty be damned!

We Are Sort Of Live

Somewhere between 6 and 10pm (rumored to be in the 7 o'clock region) Thursday evening, Arks will be playing "live" (in all honesty we recorded it last Wednesday, with plenty of dead time, idiocy, and bickering between... we'll see what makes it in and what gets thrown out) on WLUW's Radio One, 88.7FM here in Chicago. Non Chicago residents or people afraid of those newfangled radio machines can stream the broadcast live here.

Thanks to Nathan Keay for suffering through our banter and noise to take pictures. More on the purpose behind Nathan's long night out soon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pitchfork Music Festival 2007

This past weekend I, along with sweltering hordes of people with something called "fashion sense," witnessed three days of music and some other stuff that was passing itself off as music, but was a little more of the aforementioned fashion sense than... well, than actually bringing it.

But it was brought! Friday night didn't have a bad moment, with Slint performing Spiderland, GZA performing Liquid Swords, and Sonic Youth performing Daydream Nation. There was really no way to lose.

Stephen Malkmus was another performer that couldn't really fail. His set (just him, all by his lonesome, and an acoustic guitar through most of it) was intimate and the perfect summer soundtrack.

But there were other, newer acts that rose to the occasion and just absolutely blew my mind. They were few in number, but they left a lasting impression. They were Battles (who, though pretty thoroughly different in sound, reminded me of seeing Brainiac in southern Ohio when I was sixteen), Clipse (watch out GZA: these guys got the blanket dwelling crowd to their feet and didn't let them down through the entire set), and Jamie Lidell (soul to spare, and who's going to blame him for having a song in a commercial? It's still a great song, right? Right).

The only other band really worth mentioning is Mastodon. I don't lump them in with those other three because in full honesty it's not really the type of thing I'd buy and listen to on a regular basis. But while they don't make music that I would necessarily purchase, I would go to one of their shows again without hesitation. These no irony metal giants put a roof on the outdoors just to rip it back off again. I think I saw some stray body parts being tossed from the frenzied crowd. These guys were everything you want out of a summer rock festival, but all too often don't seem to get.

Don't get me wrong, there were other decent acts that put on interesting theatrics, but they weren't anywhere near as compelling, completely raw, and inventive as these acts. There were bands I missed, so I'm open to being corrected, but no matter what, I walked away getting more than my money's worth after hearing the bands Friday night and just those three other acts.

Also, I got some veggie quesadillas that were great, especially with root beer. Jonathan Messinger advised against them. Messinger, I challenge you to a rumble in the mosh pit next time Mastodon's in town. First one to lose a duodenum pays for dinner.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Apparition Commission

A few days prior to the just-posted apparition (a low-grade hallucination while in a bar, just after the Bookslut/Stop Smiling reading with Nick Bertozzi and Austin Grossman... I think the television was showing a commercial for an upcoming broadcast of the movie "Das Boot," but that may be a mistaken perception itself), I was commissioned for a drawing, with the unspecific instructions that the art be whatever came to mind. I considered a few images, had two false starts, but decided ultimately to bring this one to completion. (Though, in the end, the person commissioning the piece opted for a different piece of art entirely; fine by me, as I had grown to like this one and was glad to keep it for a while.)

I removed the wire (mentioned in the original note in my sketchbook), because, well, it just seemed too practical. I wanted this scene, to the non-submerged walker, to be almost mundane, though that removes the subtle paranoia the protagonist in the original note was feeling. Ah well. You can't have it all.

Apparition 3: June 27, 2007

I looked to the television screen.
I saw the man in the navy issued trench coat.
The pouring rain pelted the man as he walked on the bubbling surface of a thousand heads, just submerged.

He held a wire for balance lest he become one of those foot holds

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cheez Whiz, The Ultimate Art Trump

While the online version unfortunately denies you, the reader, the opportunity to cringe at what is inarguably one of the most awkward photographs of me ever (print version only, sorry), Web Behrens wrote an article for the Chicago Tribune about The Three Paradoxes, puppets, Cheez Whiz, philosophy, and dentists. Thanks to Web for the thoughtful questions.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Patton Oswalt, Misplaced Figurines

Patton Oswalt is easily one of the smartest (or, perhaps more inarguably, most thoroughly literate and well read) comics out there today. I was fortunate enough to eat barbecue next to him here in Chicago during one of his Comedians of Comedy tour (thanks to Henry from Chunklet for inviting me up) and got to witness just how mentally fast he is. He told a story to those eating at the table, about something that had happen just the night previous, then I saw him perform it on stage an hour later, almost seamlessly sewn into a knock-'em-dead comedy bit. He performed the same bit, now even further perfected, on one of Conan O'Brien's live shows in San Francisco. Flawless.

He was also nice enough – after the barbecue, two shows, and a seemingly endless signing line – in the van ride afterward (where we unsuccessfully searched for a bar), to present me with a figurine a fan had given him (which, he realized, he'd be unable to take on the plane home). But like the ass I am, in the confusion and nonstop free comedy show of that van ride, I left the figurine in the van. No offense meant, Patton. (I'm sure he didn't even notice, though I love to think of him gripping it upon discovering I'd left it and, white knuckled, seething , "That ASSHOLE! He'll pay for this! Oh... he'll pay!" But I think that's conflating Patton with Cobra Commander.)

Patton's new album, "Werewolves and Lollipops" is just as genius as ever. I can't recommend it, or his many other recordings, enough.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Embroidery Floss Thomas

When Derya Golpinar sent me this (first via e-mail, then through physical mail), I was astonished by how good it was, as this is the sort of thing that would have taken me weeks and would have ended up looking less like Thomas wearing a lion mask than Thomas wearing a lion mask after being subjected to a mutating heat ray. It's too good to not share. Thanks, Derya.

(Derya works for the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, which has some really engaging web comics on New York immigrants.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sugar Booger Re-emerges

Kevin Scalzo's been one of my favorites since I saw the first issue of Sugar Booger years ago. I don't remember where I bought it, and I don't care: I was just glad that it existed. His stories are that strange mix of explosive, cavity inducing color, mindless traipsing, and sweating innocence. That probably doesn't make sense, but, then, neither does Sugar Booger, except that it does, only in a Suger Boogerish way.

I picked up the second issue from Mr. Scalzo himself at MoCCA, along with a sketchbook collection, Sweat Book, that was dated 2006. It's crammed full of the same sort of teetering oddities as Sugar Booger (though missing Sugar Booger's ingenious color)... certainly worth looking into. Welcome back Sugar Booger. We missed your snot.

Monday, July 9, 2007

A Darkroom-Red Arks

While I don't typically mix my music with the rest of my life, it's an awful lot of fun (when we're not trying to kill one another over something we won't remember five minutes later). I think Mr. "Kamillionaire" (with whom I've never had the pleasure of being acquainted, to my knowledge) did a good job of capturing some of the fun at the Darkroom here in Chicago a couple Thursdays ago. Wow, do I manage to make some awful faces... but I'm glad he captured the "play-the-guitar-with-the-microphone" idiocy. That was pricelessly moronic on my part. I'll definitely have to do that again.

The Three Paradoxes: West Coast

I'll post exact times for San Diego signings once those are decided (but I can tell you now I'll be singing at The Tick booth (yes, The Tick) on Friday the 27th), but in the meantime, here are the times for all other events. Note to Portland people: I hope to do something particularly ill-advised/embarrassing at Powell's. We'll see if it pans out.

Also, it is now – against all probability – official: one of the "characters" who is not me, a cartoon version of me, or a cartoon of a cartoon version of me (which, pathetically, rules out a lot of characters in the book) will be on the west coast tour with me. While that's almost certainly ill-advised on that character's part, I'm looking forward to it. (And, no, that's not the ill-advised event at Powell's, that's entirely my future folly, to be blamed on no other characters, authors, or agents of any sort).

Sighting 4: June 14, 2007

Double decade insect!
I saw you strive against the jet engine.

I saw you winning, briefly
Aloft and bucking
While others were pinned to the tarmac
Rolling and futile.

But in the end
You regressed beyond my window
And we taxied
In reverse.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Hedgehog in The Fog

Also by the aforementioned Soyuzmultfilm. Say what you will about Communism or its eventual collapse resulting from its willful ignorance of man's self-interest, but art production in the absence of commercial concerns yields some beautiful results. Yes, sir! This is easily one of the more poetic short animations I've ever seen. Staggering.

Vinni Pukh: Commie Cuteness

I stumbled across this after running into the previously posted Bluebeard. Something about this little bear chatting up a pig seemed awfully familiar, and in searching around, I found that, in fact, this was the Soviet Winnie the Pooh. (Did I see remnants of this when I was in Eastern Germany? Am I making this up? Need to research that further...)

There's a ton more of this squat ball of guff here.

The Vinni Pukh cartoons, along with a ton of other amazing work, were made by Soyuzmultfilm. More on that Soviet animation powerhouse later. Until then, enjoy the gravely voiced, unquestionably tougher, communist Pooh.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Next Big Thing (or: The Case of The Headless Editor)

After a recent run-in with purely commerce driven editorial decisions (an unfortunate and constantly looming threat in any freelance work), I was ranting about it to my brother-in-law Dan, who was kind enough to melt my mind with the existence of this project discussed in the New Yorker: book deals dictated by the masses. So long editors (or at least, hello diminished editorial vision)!

I'd be lying if I said it's not compelling from a sociological/egalitarian perspective, but it scares me to death. Thanks to Dan for the link and subsequent crippling fear of the future (to be fair, that was already well established).

Friday, July 6, 2007

God Bless The Soviet Union!

Occasionally ignorance is such a rewarding pair of glasses. Like when it provided me with relatively no idea what's happening in this brilliant little animation from Russia about Bluebeard (Bluebeard's been a bit of an obsession of mine since seeing a strange animation (not this one) as a child). Just in case it wasn't weird enough, around five minutes it gets REALLY weird. It shares some characteristics with a couple of my favorites, The Yellow Submarine and the (unfortunately Disney-ized) Thief and the Cobbler, and falling into that camp is never a bad thing in my book (unless we're talking about butchering a vision, as was done to The Thief and The Cobbler, which you can read about here).

More animation from the former Soviet Union to come... because after a rousing celebration of good ol' American nationalism, what's better than kicking back and soaking up some good ol' Commie Cartoons?

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy 4th of July, Goddamn It!

Thanks to Henry from Chunklet for passing this on. And thanks to Keith Olbermann for having the boldness to get out there and say it. A salute to you, sir! Enjoy the 4th. America is still a good idea.

"When the United Sates of America, which was meant to be a Utopia for all, was less than a century old, ...a few men... demonstrated the folly of the Founding Fathers in one respect: those sadly recent ancestors had not made it the law of the Utopia that the wealth of each citizen should be limited. This oversight was engendered by a weak-kneed sympathy for those who loved expensive things, and by the feeling that the continent was so vast and valuable, and the population so thin and enterprising, that no thief, no matter how fast he stole, could more than mildly inconvenience anyone."

"Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely inappropriate and unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun."
-Kurt Vonnegut (God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, 1965)

God Bless America. Whatever those words mean.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

My Sister Turns Her X-ray Vision on Hawaii

I have to give a (belated) applauding post to my older sister Ann, who, even more impressive than enduring sixteen years or so in the same house with me, was awarded the Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy this past May. The award was presented in Hawaii, which means she not only gets to be of enviable intellect, but of enviable intellect while IN HAWAII.

From Nasa's site:

"Hornschemeier's award was for her research on X-ray emission from normal galaxies. This X-ray emission arises from several phenomena, including binary star systems that are composed of black holes, neutron stars and normal stars. X-ray emission from normal galaxies also includes contributions from hot gas that often fills a large fraction of the galaxies. She uses the Chandra and XMM-Newton spacecrafts in her research, as well as data from the Hubble Space Telescope, GALEX, Spitzer and ground-based facilities. The award citation reads: 'She is a leader in her field as demonstrated by her energetic advocacy of X-ray astronomy and her important role in defining the scientific rationale for the Constellation-X mission.'"

The American Astronomical Society hasn't updated their site as of this post, but you can read about the award and see the full (and up to date) list of recipients here.

And here's a press release referencing her (Ann's) recent work with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

Congratulations, Ann!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Dave Cooper: Teacher of The Year

This has popped up on Boing Boing and the Fantagraphics Flog, but it's too rich a resource to not re-post here. Dave Cooper (who is sadly missed in the comics world) is one jawdroppingly good painter, but he's also phenomenally generous with handing out information and precise documentation of his working process. Click through his images (if you're okay with Rubenesque cartoon baby-women engaging in sweaty, semi-translucent coitus) and get a free ticket through art school.

In the digital realm, Dave wrote a really excellent article on how to color line drawings in Photoshop. I stumbled across this a couple years ago at the San Diego Comic Con. It was in the Summer 2002 issue of Draw! Magazine (issue 4), which can apparently still be purchased here. It's only a four page article, but it's very clearly laid out. And though Dave's method of setting up files differs slightly from mine, I certainly can't argue with the results: he's got some of the best coloring out there today, be it paint or pixels.

The Parade of Faces

Everywhere I go, I am either thinking hard or needing to crap. Or anyway, this is what my face is broadcasting in about ninety percent of all pictures. The above was snapped during my reading/signing with Tao Lin in Baltimore. I swear I'm listening to someone who is off camera. I hope I am. Thanks to the folks of Atomic Pop for hosting us and letting me ogle their toys.

And the faces didn't stop in New York. I'm gesticulating, puckering, indicating where everything went wrong, somewhere in the frontal lobe, as Forlorn Funnies faithful Tom (gray shirt, above) acts like I'm making any sense.

A ton more pictures are available from the Rocketship voyage here (this was originally on Comics Reporter (thanks to Gary for the photos), and I made a PDF of it, but now that I can't get the site's photos to load from the site directly, well, all you get's my crappy pdf. What tragedy!). Aaron Stewart (a great filmmaker and all around swell guy, pictured below looking far too excited) gave the event a high five on his blog. It was muggy, sweltering, and I'll admit to spending a fair amount of the time in front of the store rather than in it, just to cool off. But there was alcohol and comics for the masses, so all was forgiven. It should be noted: Alex and Mary of Rocketship are two of the nicer people on the planet. Case closed!

I'm sure there are a million pictures from MoCCA, so I'm not worrying about thoroughness here. Google it up. These next two photos were hijacked from the always interesting Fantagraphics Flog. I was fortunate enough to sign with Miss Lasko-Gross ("Escape From Special") and John Cuneo ("nEuROTIC"), and flipped through both of their originals. Humbling, to say the least.

And to wrap it up: the Paul/Paul team up. That's Paul Karasik, editor of the mighty, squashing, all-stupefying mad genius Fletcher Hanks world "I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets!"