November 11th, 2013
My ninth grade English teacher (Mrs. Cotterman) introduced me to the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. way back in 1991 and I honestly can’t think of anything more valuable that was ever given to me. She had our class read Slaughterhouse Five and it’s fair to say it blew my mind. Since that day I’ve read many other Vonnegut books and have enjoyed each one just as well.
Vonnegut’s books make me happy. They remind me that all of the things we get so caught up in trying to control and define are just random fragments of this thing called existence. They remind me of how short life is and that we shouldn’t waste our time racking our brains trying to figure it out. They remind me that I’m not the only one that thinks we should all be kinder to each other for no better reason than that’s simply how it should be. They also remind me just how damned funny an old man from the Midwest can be.
Which bodes well for my future.
October 27th, 2013
So I’ve been embracing the vampire this Halloween season. My lovely ladyfriend and I watched the Dracula tv show that premiered Friday night (It was kind of boring with not much vampire action… but come to think of it I did make popcorn with garlic butter on it so I guess the lack of vampires could’ve actually been my fault).
I also just read Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend for the first time and thought it was stellar. I’d seen all the film versions (except for the direct to tv movie made a few years ago) and like them all. The Will Smith one being my favorite by far with Vincent Price’s coming in second and Charlton Heston’s in last place.
Speaking of Vampire films… what are your top five?
1) Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow’s 1987 film about a cowboy who becomes smitten with a girl who turns out to be a member of a family of vampires. He abandons his family and goes on the road with them as they perform their daily routines. Dark, yet at times laugh out loud funny, this film always made me think this is how vampires would actually behave in our reality. Warning: there is an extremely cheesy ’80′s ending to the film but other than that one shortcoming this is by far my favorite vampire film)
2) Vampire’s Kiss (This 1989 dark comedy is not for everyone. It’s pretty weird. Nicholas Cage plays a literary agent who is under the impression he’s turning into a vampire. His failed attempts to be a vampire are ridiculous and have me laughing every time I rewatch it… but that’s not to leave you with the impression that it’s a straight comedy. Like I said… it’s dark and weird. And definitely my second favorite vampire film)
3) I Am Legend (The 2007 film version of the Matheson book that I mentioned above. I just love all the visuals of the empty city as Robert Neville (Will Smith) forages for food, dvds and vampires to kill. It’s an added bonus that the screams of the vampires are done by Mike Patton but I swear that’s not the main reason this is my number three… it’s just a great film)
4) The Lost Boys (I saw this 1987 classic in the theater when I was ten years old so I admit that nostalgia plays a large part on this one. Kiefer Sutherland plays the leader of a vampire gang… wait, what am I doing… you’ve already seen this one. And if not you should check it out right now. It’s just a fun movie for kids and adults alike. I can’t vouch for either of the sequels though so I recommend sticking with the original)
5) Vamp (Another nostalgic movie from my childhood, this 1986 film stars Grace Jones as Katrina the queen of the vampires. Her lair is a strip club ran by and populated by vampires where she does a super artsy strip tease act featuring animal sounds and body paint. The plot revolves around three frat boys who stop by for an evening of pleasure… but they’re wallets aren’t the only thing these girls want to drain! Sorry… anyway, it’s dumb, it’s dated, but I frickin’ love this movie. And yes I realize it makes the list while Let the Right One In and From Dusk Til Dawn and Nosferatu and all sorts of other great films don’t… but this is my list. What’s yours?)
October 3rd, 2013
So as a long time listener of the This American Life radio program on NPR I was delighted at the discovery I made at the library yesterday (that’s right, I listen to NPR and frequent my local library… you wanna start some $#!*?). It was a dvd of a television series of the same program. I checked it out and this morning decided to watch the first episode while eating breakfast. I had no idea what Ira Glass looked like, having only ever heard his program on the radio, and I discovered, to my surprise and horror, that he looks much more like the drawing on the left than the one on the right (as I’d always visualized him).
It may take awhile for me to come to terms with this and if you pass me on the street a comforting word or sympathetic hug would be greatly appreciated. For now all I can do is hope that if the Car Talk guys actually look like Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum… I never find out.
September 30th, 2013
Above is an illustration I did of Inspector Fred Abberline, a character from a comic book by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell called From Hell. It started when I was around twelve years old as a serial running in the horror anthology Taboo. My older brother, knowing I liked horror and had a fascination with serial killers, loaned me his copies of Taboo to read.
As I devoured it the initial thrill of reading a comic book about the ghastly horrors of Jack the Ripper was met with confusion in my adolescent mind. This was not exactly what I’d expected… but I really liked it. The scratchy artwork, the meticulous references and the overall air of something bigger, much, much bigger than a story about murder seemed to be unfolding. It was a little much for me at that age but I knew I had glimpsed something unique.
A couple of years later I noticed that From Hell was being collected and slowly released in installments about once each year. I began buying them and simply couldn’t wait until the next release. The story was complex and layered but I was finally starting to grasp it. Every time a new installment hit the shelves I reread all the previous ones before investigating the new one. This went on until I was almost twenty years old when the series was finally completed. I was sad to see if finally come to an end but I knew that down the road I would reread the entire series.
Well here we are a decade and a half later and I finally decided to reread it. I knew the likelihood of it holding up to the level that my nostalgia and fuzzy memories have placed it was pretty slim. Much to my surprise when I read it this time it seemed even better than I remembered. Such a great comic book. In fact I’m fairly confident that it is my all time favorite.
So the above sketch is my tribute to such an amazing book that has inspired and entertained me for the majority of my life.
As a side note I also watched the From Hell film recently. To compare the two I ask you to visualize your favorite meal. Now imagine a stick of chewing gum whose flavor is supposed to be that same meal. To me the film is that gum. It contains a hint of the overall experience with none of the complexities and lasting flavor. There are a couple of nice scenes and some fine acting but ultimately it is barely an echo of the initial explosion that is the comic.
So do yourself a favor. Pick up a copy of the spiffy collected version of the comic currently in print from the fine folks at Top Shelf and see what you think. And as a disclaimer, even though I said it’s about so much more than a few ghastly murders, it does have some gruesome and bawdy imagery from time to time. So if you are not so much a fan of that and opt to skip it… then consider yourself forever missing out on a true gem.