Reading event: Seth

Seth, Clyde Fans

BookShelf Cafe eBar May 15, 2019:

Technically speaking this wasn’t a “reading” since Seth writes graphic novels and I’ve never heard of, nor can I quite imagine, what a public reading of a comic would be.

It was, however, a great session. It began with Seth giving some of his personal thoughts about how he imagines the afterlife and how those thoughts have found expression in various recurring motifs in his art. This was followed by a short film, a conversation with Eric Allen Montogomery, and some Q&A.

There was a good crowd, filling the eBar. I was wondering if it could be described as hipsterish, but then figured it skewed a bit too old for that. Later, however, Seth would describe himself as being like an old hipster, so I figured I may have been right. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Even if you weren’t a student of such things (and I’m not), or a big fan of Seth (and I am) this was the kind of talk you could easily have taken a couple of pages of notes on. In addition to offering revealing insights specific to his own life and work Seth talked, among other things, about the growing critical and public acceptance of graphic novels in the twenty-first century and the place of his own generation of artists in that development, how comics mean (that is, how they’re created and read), and the making or presentation of an identify in or through fictional characters.

These are all subjects I’m sure Seth has been over many times, but the evening didn’t seem scripted at all. It was informative throughout, but informal and relaxed. As well as being enjoyable I also felt like I learned a lot and it made me look forward to Clyde Fans all the more.


Death wishes

Back at ya, Chuck.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching some of the Death Wish movies. It’s almost a complete list. I guess the first film is of some historical/sociological interest, and if you’re interested in the whole raperevenge genre they might even be considered essential viewing, but I didn’t find much of value in any of them.

Death Wish (1974)
Death Wish II (1982)
Death Wish 3 (1985)
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)
Death Wish (2018)

Yorgos Lanthimos

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching the films of Yorgos Lanthimos. Even though they don’t share many similarities, I was reminded of Denis Villeneuve in at least one respect. Both directors have, in my estimation, made one really good film (Villeneuve’s Enemy and Lanthimos’s The Lobster). Their other films fall more into the “interesting” category. Anyway, here’s the Lanthimos line-up:

Dogtooth (2009)
Alps (2011)
The Lobster (2015)
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
The Favourite (2018)

Reading event: Tim Conley and Amy Spurway

Tim Conley, Collapsible and Amy Spurway, Crow

BookShelf, April 23 2019:

Even though there were two authors on tap (and there were supposed to be three but the third couldn’t make it) this reading wasn’t held in the eBar but at the back of the bookstore. Which is cozier (there were only fifteen chairs) but not the greatest place to be for sound. The authors didn’t have mics and you could hear all the plates rattling and orders being called from the kitchen of the restaurant just next to us, which meant you really had to pay attention.

That said, both authors read well and chose good material. Conley (whose first book, Whatever Happens, I reviewed thirteen years ago, which made me feel old) read a short story that was short enough, and made use of enough repetitive language, to let the audience see the pattern being drawn — something that isn’t easy to do at a reading. Spurway read from the beginning of her novel, which worked well because it’s told in the first person and the narrator is playing with different ways of introducing herself. So it’s a natural way to introduce the book.

This was one of the more enjoyable readings I’ve been to lately. It was informal (they didn’t even have anyone to introduce them!) and quick. The questions from the floor were good and received some interesting answers. All done in about half an hour. Time well spent.


A particularly well-preserved mummy.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching a bunch of mummy movies. It was not time well spent, as mummies make dull movie monsters and few of these movies are any good. The 1999 Brendan Fraser vehicle is still a bit of fun though, and Don Coscarelli’s Bubba Ho-Tep is worth checking out. Aside from that there’s the classic 1932 film that started it all and the 1959 Hammer version. They’re OK. The rest you can pass on.

The Mummy (1932)
The Mummy’s Hand (1942)
The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)
The Mummy’s Ghost (1944)
The Mummy’s Curse (1944)
Pharaoh’s Curse (1957)
Curse of the Aztec Mummy (1957)
The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy (1958)
The Mummy (1959)
Orgy of the Dead (1965)
Death Curse of Tartu (1966)
The Mummy’s Shroud (1967)
Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)
Dawn of the Mummy (1981)
Bram Stoker’s Legend of the Mummy (1998)
The Mummy (1999)
The Mummy Returns (2001)
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)
The Mummy (2017)

The decay of lying

I’ve recently been re-reading Seymour Hersh’s series of investigations into some of the lies told by the Obama administration, first published in the London Review of Books and then collected in The Killing of Osama bin Laden. It’s a measure of the impact Trump has had that it all seems so quaint now. And I’m not just referring to the arrival of truth-tellin’ Michael Flynn in the final pages of Hersh’s book to tell us that Russia is our friend.

Obama’s lies were variously motivated, but mainly had to do with reasons of state and the always-in-operation cover-your-ass principle. The cover story or “narrative” (a word that has now become synonymous with fiction) about the assassination of Osama bin Laden was primarily concocted in order to conceal the cooperation of Pakistan’s military intelligence. As far as cover stories (or lies) go, this struck me as fairly innocuous, even though it gave rise to Zero Dark Thirty and the hard-to-kill myth of torture’s efficacy.

I felt the same way about the misinformation given out regarding what the administration knew of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. This again seems to have been politically motivated, and stemmed largely from a chaotic situation on the ground and no clear directing policy framework for dealing with it. I’m not even sure how much it matters, at the end of the day, who was gassing whom, much less who the U.S. said was responsible.

But that was then. These lies were purposeful, political, and at least to some extent persuasive. Zero Dark Thirty even won an Oscar by taking the lies about the hunt for bin Laden and running with them. The lies of Trump, in comparison, are random, personal, and easily exposed. Are they, however, less consequential? As many commentators have pointed out, his indiscriminate carpet-bombing of lies isn’t meant to mislead about any particular point as to make the whole concept of truth seem irrelevant.

The post-truth world is the endgame in sight, a political environment like Putin’s Russia as described by Peter Pomerantsev in Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible. Pomerantsev’s book is held up by Timothy Snyder as a warning of where the West is heading, and it’s hard to disagree with his general assessment of the course we’re on.

I was thinking of matters like these this past week when following some media scandals. First there was the testimony of Jody Wilson-Raybould, who was commended, even by some Liberal party members, for telling “her truth.” I’ve been vaguely aware of this expression for a while but I’m not sure where it got started. As near as I can tell, when someone says they appreciate you telling your truth what they’re saying is that they don’t believe what you are saying is true, but they accept that you believe it to be true. It’s very much a backhanded way of saying nothing much. It’s also a perfect political soundbite. In response to the recent accusation of inappropriate behaviour on the part of possible presidential candidate Joe Biden, other Democratic candidates again rushed to acknowledge the complainant coming forward with “her truth.” I guess this covers the bases pretty nicely, without committing anyone to saying what the truth in any particular situation is.

But isn’t this a problem? By just saying that someone has told their truth aren’t we making the claim that no objective truth can be arrived at or is recoverable? That everything is relative to one’s own subjective experience? How is this different from a world where nothing is true and everything is possible?