November 29, 2012

Convenient Truths -- STONES IN EXILE

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 Keith Silva found 2010's Stones in Exile, directed by Stephen Kijak.
SacksThe Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street may be the greatest rock album of the 1970's. Hell, it may be one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded with its intensely dark, endlessly moving, incredibly powerful, fantastically wonderful songs that seem to be completely saturated in an amazing mix of drugged-out intensity, brilliant creativity, an improvisational brightness and a spectacular celebration of the history of rock and roll.
If there ever was an album that really made the legend of the Rolling Stones come to life, it's this breathtaking album. The bad boys of rock and roll took the ignominious insult of tax exile, wandered to France, holed up in the basement of a house that Keith Richards rented and created a druggy, brilliant wall of murky intensity.
Naturally anyone like me who loves this album wants to learn about it. How could we not? Exile is an album rich in mystery, in curiosity, in legend and a feeling of lost early '70s decadence. Thankfully there's a documentary called Stones in Exile that tells the story of this legendary album.
Stones in Exile does a wonderful job of telling the story of this album. The director gets all of the Stones to tell the story of the making of the album, but the most interesting stories come from the likes of Anita Pallenberg (Keith Richard's wife), producer Jimmy Miller, the hilarious saxophonist Jimmy Keys and even some of the kids who hung out while the album was made. In this fast-moving, thoroughly entertaining hour, the story of this album, filled with the "Stones against the world, fuck you attitude" that Richards really embraced.
Keith and Daniel, did you think this documentary was a worthy tribute to a brilliant album or could nothing catch the original's brilliance?

November 27, 2012


This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

Ablatio Penis
(Will Dinski)
2D  Cloud

Minnesota based publishing house 2D Cloud is starting to corner the Midwest market on interesting comics and their latest release, Ablatio Penis, continues this march.  Written and illustrated by Isotope Award winner Will Dinski, this book uses the political arena to comment on matters of the heart and ultimately asks the question: if a politician has no penis, can he still fuck us?
Ablatio Penis is about Andre’ St. Louis, who, having secured the Republican nomination, is running for Governor. St. Louis is an affable sort who seems honest (to a fault) and is either really concerned about the plight of his constituents or is expertly superficial and devoid of any true empathy. Either way, he comes across as the ultimate political construct (a Mitt Romney without the robotic limitations). Dinski characterizes his main character as everything that could be good about politicians, yet he’s thick with the stink of why they are not.

November 22, 2012


This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

 "Trying to find the perfect match between pretentious and pop" - Los Campesinos!, "It Started with a Mixx"
Keith SilvaTruth and power reside in the mixtape. Ron Wimberly knows this to be true and he doesn't hide his affection. The "Forward" to Prince of Cats rests between two double-helixes of unspooled cassette tape, Wimberly says: "I'll be cutting the B-sides of Romeo and Juliet from Shakespeare's greatest hits with a hot little piece of wax called 'Gratuitous Ninja." Love it. Mixtapes have long been romanticized by rockers and likewise by Poindexters, the latter going so far as to call the mixtape "the most widely practiced American art form." I know nothing of DJ culture. Neither would I "front" and claim a familiarity with 1980's NYC youth culture, then again, I've never been to the Pyramids at Giza either, yet the learned tell me that they are there.

Wimberly was born in 1979, in Washington DC, so who's he to tell me what Brooklyn was like in 1987? I suppose he's no different than William Shakespeare. What, you think a sometimes actor, a playwright and a glover's son ever visited Verona? Verily. Not a chance coz. Yet, we have Romeo and Juliet and Prince of Cats. Fiction knows no bounds, that's why it's called it fiction and not fact. Fiction is a mix tape with words instead of music. As for comic books, well, few mediums are more mélange-y than the anything goes aesthetic of a comic book. 

November 20, 2012


This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin

Commander X All-Star Special #1
(Jay Piscopo)
Nemo Publishing
Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a total sucker for Jay Piscopo's comics. When I stumbled across Piscopo's Sea Ghost last August, I fell in love, love, love! Now I've got my hands on Commander X All-Star Special #1 and I am contemplating a ménage a trois. This book is a collection of three short adventure stories featuring the wonderful character Commander X and is about as sexy as comics can get.

November 19, 2012

Poets You Should Know -- SHARON OLDS

Every once in awhile you stumble across a poem that reaches inside of you into places you didn't know your body contained. Sharon Olds has written poems that do just that. This fact serves as brown paper bag with which we should wrap our sweating 40 ounce bottle that contains our soul.
  • She is the author of numerous works including Satan Says (1980), The Dead and the Living (1984), and The Father (1993). 
  • She teaches creative writing at New York University.

November 16, 2012


This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin


Aaron Meyers: Parents take a sacred vow when they have children. It's an unspoken pact: "I will keep you safe from harm, and let you grow into the adult you are meant to be so you can do the same for your children." Parents keep the evils of the world at bay the best they can, protect their home, their family and their children's innocence until the world can no longer be kept at bay. Parents kill giants, but sometimes the giants win. 
What happens then? Imagination and fear make the evils of the world unconquerable. Giants everywhere threaten to destroy everything and only the brave survive. Or do they?  The book shows us that sometimes the only way to win is to give up and accept not all battles can be won. What Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Niimura tell us that with this story are that not all wars can be won, and by fighting them we lose more of ourselves than we can fathom.

November 15, 2012


This Review 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 2011's Paul Goodman Changed My Life, directed by Jonathan Lee.
SacksPaul Goodman was a complicated man. He was a pacifist and an anarchist; he was a devoted father and partner to a woman; he was also a man who would cruise the streets looking for love. Goodman was an influential essayist, novelist and poet, as well as a media gadfly who relentlessly fought for attention in a world where there were only seven TV channels. Goodman even became a leader in the gestalt philosophy movement, perhaps as a way of exploring his own psychological complexities. Most of all, Paul Goodman was a philosopher and theorist, a man who loved nothing more than exploring and debating his ideas with people that he respected.
Goodman is an ideal choice for a documentary because his life is so complex. There is much to say about the man and so much of his life defies easy analysis. I honestly felt a curious mix while watching this movie; alternatively attracted and repelled by this man of ideas. He's intensely self-involved and arrogant, filled with, sometimes, overweening confidence in his frequently offbeat ideas. But he's also brilliant and insightful and deeply caring about the ideas that are important to him.
Goodwin was a man of the type that we just don't see in public life these days. This documentary proves that our public conversations have become constrained and smaller than they used to be that the realm of discourse has become much more circumscribed than it once was. Where are the men of broad vision in our world of 24-hour news cycles filled with loudmouth bloviators? In this Presidential year, we need more men like Goodman who can see beyond their narrow-minded agendas.
I enjoyed the straight-ahead, rather rambling feel of this documentary. It's filled with reminiscences about the man from his friends and kids, along with plenty of scenes of the man talking himself. In his forever-tousled style, Goodman seems the epitome of the rumpled and eccentric college professor type, a man more preoccupied by the world inside his mind than the way the outside world perceives him.
Elkin, what did you think somewhat conventional documentary about a very unusual man?

November 13, 2012


This review originally ran on Comics Bulletin
Doctor Muscles: Journal One
(Austin Tinius, Robert Salinas, Andrew Whyte, Ilaria Bramato, Stefano Cardoselli, Antonio Brandao, Cecilia Latella)
Bogus Publishing

Every once in a while you come across a book that is so bug-fuck crazy that it fills the rest of your week with pure, unabashed, goofy, knee-twitching glee. Doctor Muscles: Journal One is one of those books. Reading Doctor Muscles is a wild ride: lurching suddenly, hurtling through ambiguity, dropping dangerously into gibberish then soaring into straightforward nutzo. It's fantastic fun and works in a cleansing way to undermine all your pretense and snootery.
What Austin Tinius and Robert Salinas have crafted in Doctor Muscles is a box filled with all of those old adventure stories you read as a kid, wrapped brightly in every single issue of Heavy Metal Magazine ever published.  The story revolves around "the smartest man in Philadelphia, Dr. Arthur E. Muscles" who, through some totally random, completely impossible "science event" is rocketed into another dimension that may not be another dimension at all, but rather Hell. Or maybe it is another dimension's Hell? Or maybe it is none of these things at all, but just another planet? Who knows? Whatever! It doesn't matter because no matter where Dr. Muscles ends up, it's all AWESOME!

November 3, 2012


This Review Originally Ran on Comics Bulletin
15 Minutes: Kim Kardashian
(Marc Shapiro, Noval Hernawan)
Bluewater Publications
What is the lesson we can draw from the fact that 15 Minutes: Kim Kardashian is even a thing? I mean, there must be some larger purpose to its existence, right? A product is released to fill a need or a desire. Just what is the thing behind this thing?
Perhaps it points to the idea that when we idolize the vainest among us we have shifted our priorities as a functioning society. Perhaps it serves as a cautionary tale, reminding us that when someone loves themselves too much it complicates their ability to love another. Maybe it forces us to come to terms with the fact that, yes, for women, being rich, attractive, and knowing how to fuck is indeed an entry into international stardom. Does acknowledging this make a person sound like a sexist or a realist? Does a comic like 15 Minutes: Kim Kardashian spur this larger debate?