Monday, July 29, 2013

Incidental Issues #1: Space Ghost edition!

When I was 10, and eBay was new, I bought 400 random comics for about $100. Since then, I’ve bought even more random comics at garage sales, etc. and I never read most of them. But now, I will read them all! Welcome to the premier post of Incidental Issues--Space Ghost Coast to Coast edition! 

Space Ghost Coast to Coast #9
Released: May 2000, by DC Comics
Original price: $1.99
IMHO: 5/5

Space Ghost has been one of my favorite shows since age 6; I remember buying these two comics at Walgreens, perhaps at the same time (but unlikely since they were released years apart). Issue #9 is REALLY good, revealing the first time Space Ghost met Zorak. The script was written by Andy Merrill (voice of Brak) and C. Martin Croker (Zorak's voice) drew pencils (with help from DC Kids veteran, Robert Pope). We fade in to see Space Ghost, Zorak, and Moltar looking at old photo slides (Space Ghost and Zorak went to the St. Louis Arch; Zorak carved his own face into Mount Rushmore). Then, Space Ghost remembers the first time he met his best pal/arch-nemesis, Zorak--plus his teen wards, Jan and Jace! Sometime in the 1950s, Space Ghost promised to babysit for his mentor, Space Hunter, who is going out for the night with his wife. Space Ghost and Blip Sr. (as it is revealed Blip from the cartoon was Blip Sr.'s son, whose father died after being hit by a train) must babysit the extra-young super-duo, Jan and Jace. Zorak takes revenge on Space Hunter for stealing his Ultimate Universal Power Orb and making it a decoration in the Space Hunter living room. Zorak and his army of Zoraks (once again, a nod to the old cartoon and more specifically a nod to how cheap Hanna-Barabara studios was in their recycling of character models) kidnap Space Hunter. So, Space Ghost must stop Zorak by punching him. It's pretty funny, there's some good jokes, and the drawings are nice. The story ends for an excellent Brak-up...the weird cat monster reprints a childhood comic, drawn in crayon, about going to the store on a horse to buy milk. The book's last page parodies the old ads that tricked kids into buying/selling plant seeds, but these Space Ghost seeds are evil and promise to grow into mind control flowers. Really weird idea...Overall, a very satisfying comic. 

Space Ghost Coast to Coast #13
Released: November 2002, by DC Comics
Original price: $2.25
IMHO: 4/5

In issue 13, Space Ghost finds a lucky penny in a pay phone. This leads to good luck for the superhero/talk-show host like, getting an extra wanton in his Chinese food, drinking the last soda, and surviving a shot to the face with a flame thrower. Eventually, Brak gets ahold of the penny and buys licorice with it and Zorak blows up Space Ghost’s spaceship (which doesn’t seem to bother him since he can teleport). Overall, the mediocre story allows room for silly visual gags, like this one

The main story is only 14 pages long, which gives room for a glorious 8 page Brak backup. Brak decides to start his own talk show with merely a microphone (so a podcast, basically), but everybody gets mad at him because he’s weird, kind of autistic, and always breaks things. Space Ghost schedules Anti-Matter Man, a reformed space criminal, to appear on the talk show. But, when Anti-Matter man comes to the studio, Zorak mocks him for no reason so he blasts him with anti-matter rays (fitting punishment). Really goofy stuff. Overall, this issue is not as good as #9, but there’s still some choice gags. Like revealing that Space Ghost irons his cape while still wearing it:

Overall, these are quality kids comics. I’m always on the lookout for more Space Ghost books (in fact, I’m bidding on some now with 

Monday, July 15, 2013

I Am Going to Clone Myself, Then Kill the Clone and Eat It

I bought this book because of the title; the absurd, ego-inflated nihilism of the statement (plus being long but still catchy) made me LLOL. Just imagine, dumping millions of dollars into cutting edge super science, all for the sake of suicide(?) and self-cannibalism! Genius! Sam Pink’s genre-defying, 2007 debut, lives up to the humor of it’s title. It’s chock full of lines dripping with cynicism, loneliness and raw emotion. It’s a lot of fun to read, then re-read when you’re feeling shitty later. Hopefully the reading makes you feel less empty inside, but it probably won’t.

Pink writes in a plain speech minimalism to articulate the omnipresent loneliness of the 21st century. The writing accomplishes this this through a mix of story sketches, dialogues, lists, story variations, and something resembling prose-poetry. It’s not verse-y sounding text blocks, but more terse and depressing sentences. Most lines are one sentence, with space between each one, forcing you to reflect on Pink’s negativity. For example, “And if you don’t hate yourself, no one will” or “Lie down; it’s time for me to walk over you and call you a bridge I no longer need” or “The revenge of the earth is reproduction.” or “If I ever decide to shoot myself, I’ll make sure to stuff my mouth with confetti , so it looks pretty for no one.” Kind of a bummer, but also kind of chipper, it feels like a homeless man walking around Chicago in the winter carrying a broken rake. But it doesn’t feel like that much at all really.

The book’s first page says these writings were from 2007-2009. I suspect some of the stories were self-published in small zines. Most stories reads like a quick, sad-humor piece. Stories like An Incomplete List of the Things I’d Like to Be Reincarnated As show how it’s hard to classify exactly what kind of writing Pink writes. The list calls images of thought “A band-aid with a little bit of blood on it and the blood has become brown from being old...An eyelash of yours that falls to the sidewalk then blows into a discarded aluminum can...A dog that doesn’t worry about anything and just eats garbage all day (and also maybe fucks some other homeless dogs too because eating garbage would suck).” But by foregoing conventional genre, it’s easier to read Pink’s writing on it’s own terms. It’s hard to compare it to other things.

Pink fixates on three topics: boredom, violence, and constant societal judgement. Perhaps boredom is the most acute; Pink writes, “I know different methods of self-destruction but none as intense as sitting still by myself.” Going to the grocery store, is always depressing because it’s always boring. You always buy the same food and always expose your genitals to same employees, offering them $50 to cut your head off with an axe. Nothing ever happens. There is no plot. There is no point. You forgot the beginning and the end’s almost here. Just buy your fruit and get out.

The gratuitous mayhem of cartoons and video games are etched onto the core of Pink’s psyche; any thought is liable to come out at any moment--including murder. What what readers might notice first when reading this book are the schizo-style violence that creeps in every story. Maybe it’s for humor, or pathos or some other feeling I’m too numb to pick up on. The story, What I Am Thinking Right Now is just,  “I wonder if the man in front of me in line at the post office has any clue that I have been considering how many times I would have to stab the back of his skull with my pen, to break through and see his brain” and is exemplary of the violence. I often think about this stuff but rarely tell anyone because I don’t want to go to jail. Pink even goes so far as to hope readers kill themselves after reading his book. Pink’s brain is naked on the page and sometimes it’s kind of mean or gross--but that’s ok because I’m mean and gross too and so are you.

I assume Pink feels intense social anxiety when writing lines like, “I have been an embarrassment to everyone I’ve met and I will embarrass my enemies” or “I think that anyone who likes me doesn’t know everything they need to know.” A constant source of pain for Pink is the inability to meaningfully connect to other people. Perhaps this really is the driving force of Pink’s writing, as his terse style almost begs the reader to connect to what he’s feeling. The loneliness in this book is immediately accessible. 

Help Me, converges all these ideas together in 81 words

“I would like to cut off the fingers from my right hand and replace them all with pinky fingers. I would wave the fingers and my hand would look like an underwater plant. I am willing to pay up to five hundred dollars to have this done by a relatively competent doctor or finger expert or even someone who knows what an underwater plant looks like, so they could be like, ‘Yes’ or ‘No, that doesn’t look like an underwater plant.’”

Sitting around and looking at your hand, imaging gruesome destruction, and being judged by a doctor for not having a freak-hand that looks enough like a sea plant. It’s pretty weird, but it connects with a feeling I feel all the time, usually when I’m scrolling up and down my Facebook feed or checking my email. 

Pink’s book isn’t overwhelmingly sad; in fact, intense cynicism is quite delightful in small doses. Sometimes the writing is really dark, sometimes it’s funny dark, and even sometimes it’s kind of hopeful. Every sentence is like a new moment in time, each moment defined by its own context of feeling--or something...I don’t know. It’s like watching a bug die slowly when you’re the person who stepped on it and you could step on it again but choose not to just so you can watch it die slowly. 

I like this book very much and highly recommend you read it.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Mindsploitation and the Futility of Knowledge

Anybody graduate college if they have enough money.

They could bribe their professors, donate a few million bucks to re-financing, attend one of those private schools that doesn't have grades, or cheapest of all, they could go major in something evaluated mostly through writing papers and pay somebody to write all their papers for them. An industry of cheaters exists for this purpose. You can buy assignments of all scholastic levels, from grade school to phD, off the internet! Hundreds of sites exist where you can buy made to order, academic papers. There's expensive sites that sell papers ranging from good to ok papers, fair priced sites that sell mediocre to bad papers, and really, unbelievably cheap sites that sell awful papers certain to receive Fs--you'd probably get caught cheating if you were dumb enough to turn it in. Mindsploitation, a new book by Wonder Showzen co-creator, Vernon Chatman, shows how bad those cheap essays really are. Mindsploitation also shows how cheaply knowledge and work are valued in our society. And then the book makes you feel a little cheap for reading it, laughing into the ever growing void of exploitation...


Mindsploitation works this way--on the left hand pages, Chatman writes a prompt to send to a company that writes essays. These prompts are absurd, surreal, subversive and, at their best, force the cheating professional to confront the stupidity of his job.  Prompts include: eulogies to grandparents funerals, death row consolations, a press release for the Shame Parade, recipes using newborn baby diarrhea, peanutclaw, etc. On the right hand pages, the response essay is printed, unedited and exactly how it is "turned in" (?). Usually, they're weird. Sometimes, they're just dumb. But the best ones are when the people try their hardest to satisfy these impossibly strange requirements.

Chatman's prose is really silly. He uses rhymes, hill billy jive, made up slang and shortenin's, all sorts of zany stuff.  Some prompts were so disjointed and bizarre it reminds me of French surrealists or cut-ups. Lol random. All of the prompts were pretty unsolvable. Basically, the only way to write a response is think of a creative, yet academic appropriate answer.  Here's a choice example of a prompt no one could solve--

Last week my Advanced Mathematics professor came over to the auditorium to watch me wrestle for the first time...Well, now my professor claims that as he lay shivering in a widening pool of his own muck, the Grand And Final Equation Of Life Itself materialized and hovered before him. He told me if I solve it, I'll not only get extra credit, but he might do me a favor and stop screaming in agony in my ear. Here's the equation - balls in your court 
GIVEN THAT: a = Truth b = God c = Mother d = Peanuts e = Logic f = Donkey g = Death 
FIND (e+b)/(a(f-d)+g(c+d) = n [solve for n)
The response for that one is boring. But here's a great response where Chatman forces some poor rube to make up weird advertising slogans

Brogurt -- "Creamy midnight packed in a tub. Finally, yogurt for the black!" The Ouija Squeegee --"Let the arms of the dead work for you with the super and natural power to clean your windscreen!...Remote Controlled Baby Stroller -- "Forget to walk the child when you have better things to do? Have it automatically, it is now possible!"  
Eventually, Chatman's silliness takes a backseat to the strange responses of these sad, soul broken persons.  A lot of the responses are mostly likely written by English language learners, probably working in essay "factories"(?) in foreign countries. I say this because a lot of the grammar mistakes seem English language learner-y (dropped articles, wrong verb tenses, strange passive voice) and many responses stressed the importance of Islam in our lives (amen to that!). The fact that Americans are making money selling cheating assignments overseas should be enough evidence that globalized capitalism a violent joke. American privilege is rooted so firmly that young college students have no qualms selling what they're actually paying for--the opportunity to learn something--to foreign laborers who are completely cut off from their work. They receive nothing by writing introductory assignments to rhetoric classes, just like the students receive nothing by taking them--the whole situation is just toothless gears spinning meaninglessly in the machine of capitalism. So while the book certainly doesn't take itself seriously, Matt Stone (of South Park) blurbs the book as "A stunning tour through Marx's alienation of labor" is totally apt. Everyone is looking for the corner to cut to "succeed" in a capitalist system because actually trying to navigate the system sucks too much.

The fact that this book can exist is the most absurd thing about it.

Some comedian once said (I can't remember who) that Vernon Chatman's greatest comedic strength lies in pulling out good performances from other people. This is undoubtedly true for Wonder Showzen. In that show, Chatman makes little kids say the darnest profound existential truths about the sham of existence. In other shows, Chatman's also pulled out some good comedy from Louis C.K. (he produces Louie), Conan O'Brien (he worked on Late Night) and Chris Rock (you get it). But I think Mindsploitation is most like this weird, soft-core porno Chatman called Final Flesh. In  Mindsploitation's acknowledgement's section, Chatman says of Final Flesh it is, "for which he apologizes most of all." But really, that movie and this book have the same sort of idea thrusting it.

For Final Flesh, Chatman found a company that will make a soft-core porno movie based on your script, so he wrote a script that was basically a Wonder Showzen episode and released it direct to a DVD. That project also found a stupid company that embodies capitalist excess and tried to turn it in upon itself. But if you watch that movie (and I don't necessarily recommend you do), it's really sad because you have to see the sadness in these people's eyes as they are exploited. It's not Chatman's fault; everyone exploits them every day (Chatman just wanted to "satirize"? it). But it's still sad just the same.

Mindsploitation, however, attacks the same target but gives the viewer some distance. It makes you think, "I wonder how that dude who lives in India feels when people sell their education just so they can get a certificate of completion" or "I wonder what it feels like to turn something like this in, with your name on it?" It's also laugh out loud funny/silly/goofy, like Wonder Showzen, but it reminds us about the stupidity of knowledge in a consumerist culture.

In short, I can't recommend the book enough; great for reading in binges but also purges, as it may be the perfect bathroom book. The design/illustrations by David O'Reily, a great cartoonist, makes the  book easy to understand, the pictures are weird, and there's small, secret text that are easier to see when re-reading. Oh also, Louis C.K. writes an introduction for the book, but it's 100% skippable as it is totally unfunny and sucks.

If this book taught me anything it's that it doesn't matter if anybody ever teaches you anything, as long as you learn to love the power of money.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July with William S. Burroughs

To celebrate our nation's independence, please imagine an explosion on a ship. This early Burroughs satire mocks psychopaths/college/America through juxtaposition of national anthem lyrics. Burroughs and Kells Elvin collaborated on this piece in college. It marks the first appearance of the always creepy, Dr. Benway!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Google Pays Tribute to Kafka?!??!

Google made Kafka the Google Graphic of the Day (tm) today. 

Here's a riddle! What's it called when the company who owns America's data....The company who's always surveilling, knows everything you know, how you know it, and what you plan to use your information for. The company who knows about your family, your friends, your spouse and even knows all the different types of photographs you have of each person. The company that's seen every bit of text I've ever typed, and in fact, are owners of the publishing software I'm currently using (extra irony!). The same company that doesn't even fully understand what they're going to do with this information yet, besides sell it to somebody. Really, the very locus of digital fear, the embodiment of post-modern (ugh!) paranoia: Google

What's it called when "They" use a Metamorphized cartoon bug to parody their own omnipresent logo?


Happy birthday, Franz!

I would say the top three most Kafkaesque things in human history are:

1. The Holocaust
2. The Cold War
3. Google

But what's funny about Google is, they seem to embrace the idea of being a disembodied force that always knows what you're doing no matter what you do.

So, God basically. 


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Zine Reviews 2! Midwest Zine Fest!

Midwest Zine Fest

Back in April, the Urbana Independent Media Center. I should have written a review sooner, but I didn't have the idea, or a functioning blog, until recently! Anyway, better late than never! Here's what I picked up...

Par (cell) ed Words

The Urbana Books to Prisoners is an activist group that sends prisoners literature. They also send radical librarians into prisons to tutor prisoners on writing and literacy. The COOLEST way they do that is through their experimental poetry zine, written by prisoners and give it away for free--radical (literally)! It's a great zine. Lots of really raw, emotive poems that make the reader feel humble. Here's my favorite poem railing against the Prison Industrial Complex, I hope Sidron doesn't mind if I share... (but if he does, I will take down--also, Sidron, if you're reading this, please email me let's chat!)

Brick Walls
By Sidron 

Brick walls sick calls but the staff ain't 'bout nothing
Population got a 1,000 years and they still in here frontin'
Lookin' at the people in the cell right across from mine
I know our time is getting' lost but we ain't lost in time 
Things better me like lotteries, so I sit & wonder
They got money to send satellites to space, but can't end
world hunger. Man, stop it, I'm tired of being tricked
Basketball causes convention & you can't see why I why I
don't want to be picked
If you lose something precious, you prey that you find it
I once was lost & everyday I'm reminded
Nobody goes back to a place that they hated
What if Eve could see the difference in life from that fruit
'fore she at it 
Majesties brought casualties & they wanna be addressed as
your honor 
If I came from the flame in my brain it wouldn't be nothin'
but damram
No love in the hugs so I look for somebody to save me
Went from the streeets to institutions, stuck in modern day
Pot to beans in the refridgerator been in there since the 12th
I'm tweleve, but it's the first so I snatch a purse, cuz I gotta
help myself
Hood life ain't good life but I just wish I could taste it
13 year old girl sodomized and her father's the rapist
I can't take it can't escape it 'cuz I can't fly into space
So I gotta make it even though I hate it 'cuz it's right in our 

Pork Chop Robinson 8

The internet is full of comics--but rarely are those comics funny. Until now! Stop reading this and check out the comic art of Steve Schaburg! Steve's cast of comic characters ranges from a group of disgruntled wizard teens (Teen Wizard Academy), a sad alien/monster who works in an office (Office Comics) and a drunk baby (Drunk Baby). Without getting too heady, Steve's comics mock life's banality with the juxtaposition of unrestrained absurdity! To see what I mean, please inspect the above alien/monster failing to make coffee, which that ends up being taffy(?), and gets stuck all over his multi-antennied body. It's also really hard to guess where the strips go, giving them a really hip sense of visual timing. I bought an old zine on accident, but lately Steve is working on a new comic series, A Dope Mouthful (already up to #4!). Also check out @extranapkins, for a similar, yet text based, sense of strangeness.

Butch nor Femme #4 / Currioddity #2

Butch nor Femme/Currioddity is a Chicago zine made by two people; I got issue four/two, which reviewed every animated Disney movie (all 51) in a couple sentences--twice! Both authors, Dalice and Lynne watched every Disney cartoon that ever came out, then elaborated their reactions. The zine's design feels naturally subversive, since the authors used cutouts of Disney backgrounds, Disney princess stickers, and other things the Disney Corporation would get mad about. My two favorite parts are the zine's price (like, $2? How'd they print it so cheap!) and the great fun facts about Disney movies....Like: Upon release in Russia, John Travolta's Bolt had to be retitled as Volt, because Bolt is Russian slang for penis; David Bowie was considered for the voice of Hades in Hercules; there's six million black spots in 101 Dalmatians! More in zine! I <3 this zine!

How to Start a Suicide Cult 

I bought this zine because of it's title. The author makes really slick looking zines with black and white art. Seems like it was made through cut-up, stencil, collage, and marker. Also lots of neat photo copier effects. I love the repurposing of the 1950s sign looking people. The really clean cut, white bread, ideal of what people should be. No text or articles though, so very quick read. Check out some art here!