Thursday, August 21, 2014

52 Thoughts Inspired by Grant Morrison's “The Multiversity” #1

Eight notes, containing fifty-two thoughts, on the occasion of my favorite anarchist DC Comics writer releasing the first issue of his latest multiple-universes epic.

Grant Morrison:

1. Comics writer Morrison likes to toy with his characters’ conceptions of reality and is a vegetarian on animal-welfare principles (thus he might have liked the TV show Wilfred, judging by Sonny Bunch's review).

2. Part of the reason this entry is long is that I was avoiding blogging, tweeting, and Facing for a week, and this is what happens when I save it up. It’s not just me, though: cyber-addiction is now trans-species (which might trouble Morrison): Emily Zanotti Skyles, fascinatingly, notes that her cat Fat George gets huffy and stomps around mad if she takes away the iPad on which she sometimes lets him watch birds.

3. But to return to the main topic: the first issue of the nine-issue, Morrison-written miniseries The Multiversity from DC Comics came out yesterday, featuring numerous familiar-yet-surreal characters amidst a multiversal war, including talking rabbit Capt. Carrot and an evil giant eyeball reminiscent of the villains Brother Eye and Mickey Eye (used by Morrison in past stories) and, probably-coincidentally, reminiscent as well of the Marvel Comics villain the Orb (who recently stole the secrets of that company’s multiverse in its biggest current miniseries).  

At the heart of the conflict set up in the first issue is the last living Monitor of the multiverse, Nix Uotan (which presumably translates roughly as Nothing-Father, as opposed to Odin the All-Father), who is torn between the assembled forces of good and evil. In the end, though, I suspect we the readers will become the real Monitors, in keeping with Morrison’s usual penchant for metafiction.

4. Morrison is a rather Michael-Moorcock-like anarchist: loving diverse worlds, characters, and aspects of personality because he finds in the resulting ironies pockets of freedom.

And given how rapidly media is accumulating layers of irony and self-referentiality these days, especially online, one has to wonder if there’s an irony-oriented equivalent of the tech-oriented Singularity on the horizon, a point past which no one will have the slightest idea whether anyone else is serious about anything.

5. Morrison is also fond of magic and so might like this video of a magician taunting a cop.

6. He would likely greatly appreciate the fact that a real-world Washington Post article about Ferguson (last I checked) inappropriately capitalizes “Watchmen.” Apparently, another anarchist comics writer, Alan Moore, has successfully blended his work in the popular mind with the Juvenal saying. Let none call comics juvenile.

7. Even Wired is writing about Multiversity, likening it to the multiple-worlds interpretation of quantum theory (h/t Jackie).

8. Here are six pages of the story you can read yourself (or at least try to comprehend, for those not steeped in weird comics already).

9. If nothing else, the miniseries will leave us with Morrison’s amusingly complex-and-nerdy new map of the Multiverse. There’s at least one Stan Lee-influenced Earth over on the dark side of the multiverse and the very Jack Kirby-influenced Earth 51 over on the light side, interestingly.

The most interesting innovation in Morrison’s very faithful map, though, may be placing all the pagan gods’ homes on neighboring mountain peaks in a place called Skyland and opposing it to an Underworld that also goes by the (Kryptonian) name the Phantom Zone, which like so many Morrison innovations makes a great deal of sense even from a very traditionalist perspective.

While we’re at it, I think they could make real historical sense of the term “Fourth World” for Kirby’s New Gods characters once and for all by declaring the local spirits of animist faiths the First World, the pagan pantheons the Second, the God of monotheism the Third, and treating Kirby’s Fourth World characters as the troubled, more tech-oriented neophyte gods born of the Industrial Era’s turn away from Christianity and similar faiths. But, hey, I don’t write these things (often).

Other Voices:

10. Despite their slight creative similarities, I don’t know what Morrison thinks of departed manic-trickster demigod Robin Williams...

11. ...but I suspect he’d appreciate the metafictional fact that

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Of Mork, Men, Marx, Mirth, Murder, Music, and Me

•I wasn’t a big fan of the Tourette’s-like humor of Robin Williams, nor Robert Altman’s oddly joyless Popeye film, but I must still admit that (as Franklin Harris has noted) few human beings could transform themselves so convincingly into one of my favorite cartoon characters as to make this scene possible. Williams’ talent and energy were obvious.

•I think the very earliest Fleischer Popeye cartoons are more fun, though -- with this monstrously un-p.c. one a favorite. Popeye is sometimes credited as an early (pre-Superman) superhero to boot, along with the likes of 1903’s counter-revolutionary aristocrat, the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Scarlet Pimpernel, arguably the first modern superhero, was created by a conservative female, it’s worth noting. History is more complex than the political spectrum and academic denunciations of Superman as patriarchal.

•If Williams were still alive, he might have approved of something going on onstage in NYC that I (and a lovely Popeye fan named Jackie) plan to check out on Friday -- something you, too, might want to catch while you can: a short-run performance of the one Marx Brothers play that was never turned into a film, I’ll Say She Is! I hope it will be the closest thing I’ve experienced to seeing a new Marx Brothers film since seeing the highly accurate (and funny) 90s homage Brain Donors with John Turturro (as ballet-ruining mischief-maker Roland T. Flakfizer).

•I, by contrast, am simply honored to be in the company of the other comedic political commentators gathered by Tom Brennan on August 9 for his latest Electoral Dysfunction show at People’s Improv (not to be confused with the People’s Cube).

I think one of the most important lessons learned may be that Robert A. George, if pressed about his immigration status, is still cagey about whether he comes from a place called Trinidad or a place called Tobago, but ultimately I want all borders and nations eliminated, so we’ll let it slide.

•Williams’ death isn’t the only one this week reminding us of the 1980s, since James Brady passed away, his death ruled a homicide all these years later, stemming from his injuries during the attempted assassination of Reagan. To compensate for that traumatic memory -- while remaining thematically relevant -- here’s an unjustly forgotten New Wave song by weapony-sounding band Armoury Show (“Castles in Spain”) plus a song about creepy woman-obsessed stalker guys: what may be my favorite Siouxsie song, with only one Banshee joining her, the Creatures’ “Standing There.”

•And while you have the Reagan assassination attempt on the brain, why not read (or reread) my time-travel sci-fi story about that unfortunate incident, “No Future,” on the rich and ever-growing libertarian pop culture site Liberty Island

Thursday, August 7, 2014

10 Notes on: Piketty, the Fed, Libertarians, New Wave, ME ONSTAGE, more

1. Join me tonight (about an hour after the nominal start time of 7:30, at 20 W. 44) in the audience at the libertarian gathering called the Junto to hear Gene Epstein talk about the left-wing anti-capitalist superstar Piketty and his similarly socialistic high-profile-economist brethren.

2. The discussion there about inequality and its causes might give me a chance to follow up on that big lingering question I had in my Nicholas Wade-inspired blog entry two weeks ago (and left unanswered in so many Ron Paul-type speeches), namely: how big an effect does the Federal Reserve and continual increase in the money supply have?

3. Libertarians may not have answered that question clearly enough to satisfy me, but we are hip: That seems to be a key message of the very nice New York Times Magazine piece about the movement (would that one of their science writers hadn’t recently Facebook-unfriended me, likely for left-wing reasons), with crucial grunge-era analogies from Kennedy as its open.

4. For the New Wave music video argument against war, though, you need to watch “State of the Nation” by Industry (h/t heroic architect Dave Whitney).

5. Ebola testing in NYC and other secret locations is mildly troubling, but aside from that threat and terrorist movements like ISIS crossing borders, I don’t care too much about the precise borders of China, Ukraine, Israel, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, or even the U.S., and, remember, I'll say as much at...

6. The Electoral Dysfunction onstage, comedic political panel-discussion this Saturday at 7pm (featuring me, Robert George, and many others) at People’s Improv, 123 E. 24th here in NYC. The topic is “immigration,” and now’s the time for it.

You can shave a few cents off the trifling ten bucks they’d charge you at the door by getting your ticket online -- and then you can use the money you save to buy me a birthday drink, precise dates be damned.

7. The panel organizer, Tom Brennan, recently went from being a Marvel Comics editor to being a DC Comics editor, but I bet he still enjoyed Marvel’s light but enjoyable and geek-pleasing Guardians of the Galaxy more than my contrarian movie-reviewer pal Kyle Smith, who probably would not have shared the enthusiasm for such films I expressed in that recent podcast with Gerard Perry and very special guest star Jackie.

It’s still too early for me to spoil the post-credits sequence, but I think it was the best one since the first Iron Man movie. (And for those keeping track: We’ve see four Infinity Stones so far, with only two -- Time and Soul -- unaccounted for -- so please, please let the cool character Adam Warlock turn up wearing the latter in the sequel; we saw his cocoon in the background of the Collector’s HQ in both Thor: The Dark World and Guardians, after all.)

8. The real world can be mighty sci-fi itself: I increasingly think weird blimps may be the cause of many of the non-hallucinated UFO reports we’ve heard over the years, and New Jersey has a wild bear who walks on his (surprisingly lanky) hind legs roaming its suburbs and reminding one and all how easy it is to be mistaken for Bigfoot.

9. I am skeptical in a different way -- albeit highly amused -- by Wikimedia’s argument that a monkey, not a human camera owner, owns a photo on their site.

10. And for some applied capitalism, catch my friend Kelley Edmiston hawking her vintage posters and other art wares hauled from New Orleans to several sites this month including the Allaire Flea Market in Farmingdale, NJ, this Saturday; the Hastings Flea Market in Hastings on Hudson, NY, on Sunday; and the Second Ave. (between 10th and 11th St.) flea market on August 23.

Or just join her and others in the audience in Newark today at 5pm for the Neville Brothers-linked band the Funky Meters (quick!). Music makes her even happier than money does, but both are good. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Seavey August Events: a PODCAST and an ONSTAGE Appearance...

…plus friends at a flea market and perhaps at Burning Man too (and a note on the book The Cassini Division). Ten times to remember:

NOW: You can hear what Gerard Perry and I (and our special guest star, the lovely Jackie) think about one Marvel’s current blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy -- as well as another comics-based film out in August, the sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For -- in our new podcast (a successor to our earlier YouTube video experiments)!!!

AUGUST 3: At the Greenflea flea market (on Columbus Ave. between 76th and 77th) this coming Sunday, you’ll find one booth run by Kelley Edmiston, who was an extremely helpful guide to New Orleans for me (as she has been for countless others) when I visited and wrote about that city years ago. I will have to pay her a visit Sunday (between 10am and 6pm) and see her wares.

AUGUST 9: please attend the (funny but real) political-discussion panel I’ll be part of, organized by Tom Brennan (himself a Marvel editor turned DC Comics editor), at People’s Improv (123 E. 24th in NYC) on Sat., August 9 at 7pm, when the timely main topic will be: “Immigration.”

AUGUST 29: Is anyone out there going to Burning Man?

I’m not, but someone who is please become a hero to a whole subculture of people who hate or laugh at quasi-performance-artist and jaw-dropping narcissist Julia Allison by reporting online and taking pictures Friday, August 29th (6-8pm) at Burning Man’s Chillax Lounge, at Camp Mystic, as she “marries herself,” having decided at long last that she is not engaged in enough self-love. And let me know if you do so.

As explained on the watchful and mocking ReDiscovering Donk blog, Julia “Donkey” Allison has also apparently chosen a known child molester to officiate, just to add characteristic unplanned comedy/disaster to the embarrassing proceedings.

(I don’t know if, say, Brian Doherty or Reid Mihalko is going to Burning Man this year -- but if nothing else, the latter points out this video of Rollie the armadillo playing with a toy, so that’s some entertainment value right there. I am also fond of this fat cat. As the human interviewee in the video says, “That cat’s not pregnant. That cat is Norm.”)

BACK IN 2006: Speaking of grotesque pageants and vulnerable children, I never imagined before (belatedly) seeing Little Miss Sunshine that I’d see one cultural artifact that seems to have influenced Arcade Fire, Breaking Bad, and Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. It also makes sense its writer, Michael Arndt, would be used to write one of the sick-pageant-oriented Hunger Games movies, and he reportedly did some early script work on Star Wars VII, which no doubt involves young new trainees as well.

IN THE DISTANT FUTURE: There was an interstellar civilization in our own solar system as well -- until capitalism caused “the Fall” (or at least was blamed for it) and was abolished, leaving behind super-smart, sexy, nanotech-suit-wearing anarcho-socialists, who hate both government and capitalism and find it baffling that people once had to work and earn wages in order to acquire goods and services (how silly!).

Or at least that is the premise of Ken MacLeod’s 1998 sci-fi novel The Cassini Division, which may be the product of a damned socialist but does a cool job of building up to conflict with possible godlike extra-dimensional menaces who threaten to render (even futuristic) human social systems obsolete.

What I’ve read of it so far is more encouraging than the worryingly bland trailers for Christopher Nolan’s upcoming sci-fi film Interstellar (apparently based on the simpler -- but stupider -- premise that it is easier to find a new planet for humans to live on than to produce more food on Earth).

And after all, all of us anarchists -- anarcho-capitalists and anarcho-socialists alike -- were pals back in the nineteenth century in the U.S., so perhaps there will be peace again one day. Just stop touching my stuff when the time comes and we’ll be cool. Catch you after Jubilee, dude.

AND IN THE 1940S: Apparently, the upcoming midseason replacement early-days-of-S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Carter TV series (starring Hayley Atwell) will serve partly to set up Marvel’s Ant-Man movie -- by depicting teen-or-so Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, the young versions of the original Ant-Man and Wasp, not to mention depicting the original fleshy version of Jarvis the butler, all of which is kinda cool.

The show will depict Capt. America’s ex-girlfriend helping to found the spy group S.H.I.E.L.D. after WWII.

BUT NOWADAYS: The audience for superhero fare no longer is no longer all that white, according to this article about Latinos in geek culture such as Sin City director Robert Rodriguez himself (h/t Kathleen Hunter).

IN THE 1950S: S.H.I.E.L.D.’s real-world sister organization, the CIA, claims that repeatedly U-2 spy planes were mistaken for UFOs. It’s just one of the many things mentioned (on International UFO Day this year, as it happens) by the CIA’s actual, for-real, though joke-prone official Twitter feed, for good or ill. (They’ve also joked about mass surveillance. Ha ha!)

ETERNAL VIGILANCE: But perhaps we should watch for sharks in the NYC sky, per the warning issued this week by Sharknado 2 (which I think I’ll be watching on DVR with college pals this weekend). Ours is a rich cultural tapestry.