July 30, 2012

From the Ground -- Atomic Above

In 1957, 5 Air Force volunteers stood at ground zero of an atmospheric nuclear test in the Nevada desert. In this astonishing film, you can see and hear the men waiting for a bomb to explode 18,500 above them, followed by the flash of the blast and then the thunderous ground wave. Robert Krulwich has more on the test and the men who took part in it over at Krulwich Wonders.

July 27, 2012



Elkin: Using only a dessert spoon and a Swiss Army Knife, guided only by your Unforgiving Eye® flashlight and your authentic replica British Army compass, sometimes you dig and you dig and you dig a tunnel from one place, perhaps a Toxic Wasteland, to another place, perhaps a graveyard in Nullepart, CA, and, through that process, you travel from one sense of the possibilities of a particular matter, only to find that as you burst from the ground in an act of parturition you have entered a world so wholly outside your ken that the only practical outcome is to literally lose your head.

David Hine and Shaky Kane warn us this will happen in the very first pages of The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #1. They want to prepare you for the journey they are going to take you on in this six issue series. They know that you are naked, nearly hairless, and you've been digging for a long time.

It is a warning that comes from a place of love.

July 24, 2012


Jason Sacks and Daniel Elkin are back again to examine, celebrate, and mourn some of the weirdness that was comics past. With each successive column, they are slowly becoming weirdness junkies whose drug of choice seems to be more and more the weirdness only Bronze Age comics can provide. To get their fix this week, Jason and Daniel got their hands on DC SHOWCASE PRESENTS THE PHANTOM STRANGER VOLUME 1 and the result was the following conversation.

Jason Sacks: The Phantom Stranger didn't have much in common with most of the horror comics we've been reviewing for the site, except for one thing: the spectacular art. We got Neal Adams, lots of Jim Aparo, plenty of Tony DeZuniga and a couple of issues of exquisite work by the amazing Mike Sekowsky. All in service of some diligently mediocre comics.

Daniel Elkin: Mediocre comics? While I will certainly agree with you that the art is the showpiece of this collection, I think there were some moments, especially in the later issues, where there were some interesting things going on. I found myself wondering quite a bit about certain aspects of the each story and this wondering kept me going.

Sacks: Maybe that's why they were always called "mystery stories" at DC instead of horror stories.

Elkin: Heh.

Sacks: Actually, what I really enjoyed the most, aside from the work by the great Sekowsky, was the variety in this book. One month we got that magnificent superheroic Phoenix story and the next month we got a moving Gothic romance tale. This was almost an anthology series, in part because the Stranger is such a cryptic character.

Elkin: Cryptic character is right, Sacks. I'm still trying to figure out who or what the hell The Phantom Stranger is. Is he an angel of the lord? Is he some guy from the future? What is up with the Phantom Stranger? I know hardly anything about him, and this collection only added to the mystery.

One thing I noticed is that with each subsequent issue, he seemed to gain greater power and had more of a clear "mission" (as it were).

Sacks: What do you think his mission is? Because there are some stories where he is a literal deus ex machina and others where he takes an active hand in moving the story forward

Elkin: His mission appears to be to stop the forces of evil from causing chaos and overwhelming the forces of good. There seems to be a pretty strong "religious" sensibility to his demarcations of good and evil, and he seems to imply at times that he is working for some larger agency.

Sacks: I think it's the Gerry Conway issues where he specifically says he's fighting for the preservation of order against chaos (The Stranger, not Conway).

I liked how the Stranger is pretty much a complete mystery - his powers, his motivation, his connection to people - they all seem kind of amorphous.

July 22, 2012

Kalle Mattson -- Water Falls

 Hypno SF made a series of animated motion photographs (full gallery) of various locales in San Francisco. They incorporated them into this. Directed by Kevin Perry. Water Falls, a song by Kalle Mattson.

July 21, 2012

Review - BLINDSPOT #2

This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

I first ran across Joseph Remnant when I reviewed Harvey Pekar's Cleveland for this site. In that review, I wrote: “It seems like Remnant understood that as Harvey talked about Cleveland, he was also talking about himself. Remnant is able to somehow suffuse his art with this sensibility in such a subtle way that it blends the ideas of the two narratives together seamlessly.” An impressive feat, wrought by an artist coming into his craft.
Needless to say that when I found out that Remnant was self-publishing his own comics, I jumped at the chance to take a look at what he could do on his own. I have to say that what Remnant can do on his own is pretty damn impressive.

July 19, 2012

Comics Review -- MOTHERLOVER

This review originally ran on COMICS BULLETIN
2D Cloud out of Minneapolis, MN is producing some weird and uncomfortable independent comics and unleashing them upon our world You know, our world that does its best to tape and texture over the weird and uncomfortable as it tries to package it as "ironic" or "hip". But the weird and uncomfortable comics that 2D Cloud produces is the bare framing, the skeleton of the building, the structure underneath.
The best example of this is their Kickstarter-funded 2011 anthology called Motherlover, featuring the work of Nicolas Breutzman, John and Luke Holden, and colorist Raighne Hogan, 
Breutzman contributes two comics to this anthology, "Photograph" and "You Can't Be Here," both of which are stories of individuals attempting to make connections, either with other people or places. Breutzman's stories occupy relatively quiet environments which are cascadingly familiar, both the urban facelessness and the empty suburban. But it is the interactions, the desire to connect, that spawn that weird and uncomfortable sensibility that pervades this anthology. 

July 18, 2012

Convenient Truths -- HECKLER

This column originally ran on COMICS BULLETIN
Sometimes the most universal truths can be found in the smallest slices of life. That’s what makes independent documentaries so powerful, engaging and entertaining. Not only do they show you little worlds to which you’ve never had access, but they oftentimes also tell the larger story of what it means to be human. Armed with this intellectual conceit, a bag of Funyuns and a couple of Miller beers, Daniel Elkin curls up in front of the TV and delves deep into the bowels of Netflix Streaming Documentaries to find out a little bit more about all of us.

Today he and his friends Jason Sacks and Paul Brian McCoy found 2007's Heckler directed by Michael Addis and produced by Jizzy Entertainment.
ElkinHeckler is a documentary that is, ostensibly, about the reactions of artists to the vitriolic nature of people who either interrupt performances by shouting out their (usually drunken) criticism or who have published savage personal attacks in the press or on their blogs. The film mostly focuses on actor/comedian Jamie Kennedy as he confronts both individuals who have some rather strong opinions on why his comedy act is, in their eyes, terrible; as well as internet movie critics who have posted overly harsh reviews of his movies. Kennedy also interviews fellow comics, filmmakers, and Mike Ditka(?) about how they deal with this sort of maliciousness.

July 14, 2012

Poets You Should Know -- CONSTANCE PULTZ

Constance Pultz was a long-time member of the Poetry Society of South Carolina. She passed away on Feb. 12, 2010 at the age of 96. 

I have been unable to find out much more about her, although there is a video interview with her at the end of this piece.

After her poems. Her wonderful poems.

July 13, 2012

GUUVI - Pig-Faced Man

This song originally appeared on the never recorded 1996 first album, Music For Blender Drinks, from the Minneapolis band Guuvi

Pig-Faced Man

Never did find out
his name
But he sat next to me
on the bus
And told me his entire
life story

it was boring

Pig-Faced Man

July 12, 2012

GUUVI - Lickin' Rednecks Holdin' Longnecks

This song originally appeared on the never recorded 1996 first album, Music For Blender Drinks, from the Minneapolis band Guuvi

Lickin' Rednecks Holdin' Longnecks

Never in a hurry to get there early
Always on time when I should be late

Watchin' thoughts spinnin' when I should be sleepin'
Always am tired when I should be awake.

Never am hungry when I should be eatin'
Always half-starved in the middle of the day

Never am horny when I got a gal before me
Always feel lusty when I'm on the make

Lookin' for meaning 
While lickin' Rednecks holdin' Longnecks
It's what I call a hobby
Everyone needs a hobby

July 10, 2012

Building Back Muscle Memory at the Crocker Art Museum

Art can be hard. It requires us to work. It demands attention and thought and all that stuff that we usually hate to do, especially when there are so many outlets more than willing to spoon feed us and sponge bathe us.

We get lazy. Indolence. Idleness.

We grow flacid in the absence of art and get to the point where it simply annoys us.

But it's like riding a bike. Those muscles are there and they want to be used.

And thus was my workout at the CrockerMuseum.

July 9, 2012

Robots. Dubstep.

Colorado based 3D artist Jason Giles of Fluxel Media drops some robotic dubstep beats in this amazing animated short titled Dubstep Dispute. The track is an excerpt of the chorus Knights of Cydonia (dubstep remix) by Nostalgia.

July 8, 2012

Cheap Thrills -- FREEMIND #1

In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult.  Thank goodness for the local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore!  Each week Daniel Elkin randomly grabs a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang he can get for his two-bits.  These are those tales.

Stop me if you've heard this one before.
Citing things like:
  • “publishers concentrat(ing) on superficial elements and ancillary products development instead of quality”[1]
  • “knuckleheaded editorial decisions that ... drained our enthusiasm and left us wondering 'If they don't care then why should we?'”[2]
  • “working in a corporate environment does have its merits; freedom just isn't one of them.”[3]
A group of seasoned comic book creators buck the system, rebel against the corporate structure, and strike out on their own to form a new publishing company that guarantees them creator ownership and editorial freedom.
I'm talking about Future Comics, of course, the Florida based company started in 2000 by comic book stars Bob Layton, Dick Giordano and David Michelinie.
And man, were these guys excited about their company.
With great and giddy fanfare, they announced the inception of Future Comics at Heroes Con in June of 2000. Saying things like they “believed that comics should be readily accessible and written for a general audience,” not “for a niche' audience” and that they should “tailor Future Comics projects, for lack of a better term, a little more mainstream – stuff that could be read by the 'Average Joe'”,[4] they confidently strode into the marketplace. They wanted to tell the stories they wanted to tell. They wanted to bring life back to what they saw as a floundering comic book audience. Layton, Giordano, and Michelinie stepped for into this new world of creative freedom with “plans to publish four monthly books … written by either David or Bob.” [5].
And there was more. They went even farther and stomped harder on the Terra. In response to complaints by retailers about “the callous way they were being treated by Diamond,” [6], Future Comics created an entirely new distribution plan in which they would exclusively sell their comics via the Internet through their Future Comics Retailers' Club and cut out “the auspices of a single, monopolistic (and possibly malevolent) entity – Diamond Comics Distributors” [7].
Bold stuff. Brave moves. Iron Balls.
Creators completely in charge of their creations – all the way from idea to shelf – with no muckling and middling middle-men meddling in their business. The artist's dream realized.
The future of comics.
And it began with a bang. Future Comics first publication was a title called Freemind, which Bob Layton co-wrote with Michelinie. Layton also was responsible for inking and editing the book, while Giordano took on the penciling duties. This release led critics to call this a “return to greatness” and had them referring to Future Comics as “the next Marvel Comics”.
Critical acceptance. Books on the shelves. Excitement. Energy. Possibilities. The Future.
Oh ... but then there's this.
Yesterday, I found Freemind #1 on sale at my local comic shop in the bargain bin for 25 cents.
What happened?
How does such unfettered promise end up in the bargain bin? Why was this the future of Future Comics?

July 6, 2012

The Will to Fail.

Concierto "Voces para la Paz" (Músicos Solidarios) 2011

Concierto "Voces para la Paz" (Músicos Solidarios) 2011 Auditorio Nacional de Música de Madrid Madrid, 12 de junio de 2011 Director: Miguel Roa Solista: Alfredo Anaya Proyecto: Pozos en Níger

July 5, 2012

A Moment or Two for You (and Lou)

My particular personal pantheon is larger than some -- smaller than others -- but it is what it is -- and it is -- because I have keyed in tightly to the myriad of aspects that float in front of our faces, daily, incessantly, ubiquitous. These seeming dots before our eyes, dust storms, light dances, you get to choose -- are all discordant, seemingly random, rudderless in every intent, yet all aspects of one.

I know. It sounds as if it were time to launch into a Whitman poem, or a Cole Porter musical number. but this is neither the place nor the post -- for it is time once again to talk about Lou Reed.

Why? Because sometimes I mistake coincidence for importance and sometimes I mistake importance for coincidence.

Meanwhile, I should know that I am wrong every time I try understand.

And Lou is my guide.

I've told this story before, but it demands reiteration:

  • I first heard a Lou Reed song when I was 14 or 15 (a dot before the eyes).
  • It was "Sister Ray" from the White Light/White Heat album.
  • I was gonked at my friend David's house.
  • He put on this record for me and we lay on the floor and let the music crawl on all fours across the rug and snap into our brains.
  • Oh my god -- I think I shit myself listening to that, be it gonked or be it real (nay, we are but men) -- but oh my god.
  • The sound -- the churning churning churning and telling me all about transvestites and smack and ding-dongs -- oh -- my -- god -- suburban Jew middle class meltdown.

July 2, 2012

Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror

Team members at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory share the challenges of the Curiosity Mars rover's final minutes to landing on the surface of Mars.

July 1, 2012

Convenient Truths -- Senna -- Review

This Column Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
Sometimes the most universal truths can be found in the smallest slices of life. That’s what makes independent documentaries so powerful, engaging, and entertaining. Not only do they show you little worlds to which you’ve never had access, but they oftentimes also tell the larger story of what it means to be human. Armed with this intellectual conceit, a bag of Funyuns, and a couple of Miller beers, Daniel Elkin curls up in front of the TV and delves deep into the bowels of Netflix Streaming Documentaries to find out a little bit more about all of us.
Today he and his friend Jason Sacks found 2010's Senna by Asif Kapadia.
Warning: there are major spoilers below
ElkinSenna is a documentary about the life of Ayrton Senna, one of the most popular Formula One drivers of the decade spanning 1984 – 1994. During that time Senna won three World Championships, fought against the politics of Formula One racing and became a national hero to his native Brazil. Senna was a deeply religious man, an iconoclast and, for all intents and purposes, a real decent human being.