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Below are 20 journal entries, after skipping by the 20 most recent ones recorded in
David Lasky's LiveJournal:
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|Sunday, October 12th, 2014|
|My Favorite Song
"Complainte Pour Ste. Catherine"
performed by Kate and Anna McGarrigle
In the late 1990’s, I was working part-time for Fantagraphics Books, and enjoyed listening to the large library of CD’s that my boss, Kim Thompson, had made available in the office. His love of Neil Young and David Bowie matched my tastes and gave me a lot of previously unheard albums to discover. But one day I came across some albums by two sisters I’d never heard of. I popped one into the art department’s stereo and immediately fell in love with it. Who were these women, and why had I never heard of them before? (I later learned that the albums came from Kim's wife Lynn, so I have her to thank as well.) Though the entire album was great, one song, “Complainte Pour Ste. Catherine,” rose above the rest, and has stayed with me ever since.
Recorded for Kate and Anna McGarrigles’ self-titled debut album in 1975, this track stands out among the sisters’ repertoire because it is one of only about a dozen songs sung in French by these English-speaking Canadian sisters. My appreciation for it is enhanced by the fact that I don’t speak French, and therefore can invent my own meanings for the words I hear. Also aiding my interpretation of the song is the fact that I am not religious, and am not really sure who Saint Catherine was. And so I listen more deeply to the intonations and beautiful harmonies of the McGarrigles. What I hear is young women who are feeling the conflict between earthly desires (most likely romantic and sexual) and spiritual purity. And perhaps this is their complaint for Saint Catherine: that their bodies were made to desire things by the same creator who, they are told in church, wants them to put those desires on hold.
Reading a translation of the lyrics, which are by poet and songwriter Philippe Tartartcheff, I must confess my surprise at how meaningless they seem. Ste. Catherine, it seems is the name of the Montreal Metro station the singer is walking past (though I did read that she is also the patron saint of single women). The repeated refrain explains that the singer has been in politics for twenty years by fighting mosquitoes. The lyrics overall seem to be about living a modest life and having fun.Which is fine, but I prefer to hold onto my own personal interpretations.
The instrumentation is a blend of folk and clunky pop, and though it is lovely, it is not something I would listen to as an instrumental. What makes this song amazing are the lead vocals by Anna McGarrigle, whose voice sounds almost like two people singing in unison, and the harmonies with sister Kate and perhaps a few other singers. The harmonies blend in an awkward but distinctly beautiful way, reminding us that some of the better recorded singing has been done by family groups. These harmonies are sexy in the way that a teenage make-out session is sexy: the listener feels strong passion combined with clunkiness, and a sense of restraint that is slowly being loosened.
I looked up “complainte”, and it doesn’t mean complaint, it means lament. Is the singer feeling sorrow for Saint Catherine because she vowed to remain a virgin all her life? Is the lament for Ste Catherine Street, a major thoroughfare in Montreal, because it is too cold for window shopping on this winter’s day (as mentioned in the lyrics)? I don’t know, and I don’t know how mosquitoes relate to politics either. It may require an understanding of Quebecois slang. Or not. I’m happy to continue to misunderstand the lyrics anew with each playing of this song.
Another great album in Kim’s library was a collection of hits by Kirsty MacColl, which included a cover version of “Complainte.” MacColl died tragically in 2000. Kate McGarrigle died of a rare cancer in 2010. Kim Thompson, sadly, died of lung cancer (though he was not a smoker) in 2013. Maybe there is some profundity in the lyrics after all, which advise us (if I’m understanding them) not to be concerned with the trappings of wealth, but to enjoy ourselves while we’re here on this earth.
This entry was written as part of the 30/30 challenge, to raise funds for Richard Hugo House... Help me reach my goal by donating here.
|Friday, October 3rd, 2014|
|Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014|
|Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014|
|Tuesday, June 10th, 2014|
|Comics classes in Seattle this summer...
I will be teaching two upcoming comics classes in Seattle...
On June 21 and 22, a weekend intensive at Gage Academy: http://lnkd.in/bSdtnM8
And on six Saturdays in July (and some of August) I'll be co-teaching "Your Personal Story in Comics Form" with Greg Stump at the Richard Hugo House: http://lnkd.in/bzUf6aJ
(Greg Stump talks about it here: http://hugohouse.org/classy-talk-greg-stump-summer-2014/ )
This is the class description:
A personal story increases in its visceral power when told in comics form. Two experienced graphic novelists will guide you through the process of creating several short comics, leading up to a finished autobiographical story. We’ll look at examples from masters of comics and cartoons while exploring different aspects of the medium through a variety of exercises and assignments. For this class, drawing ability is not as important as the desire to communicate your ideas clearly. Current Mood: excited
|Thursday, April 17th, 2014|
|Tuesday, December 31st, 2013|
|2013 / 2014
2013 has been an amazing year for me, sometimes lucky, sometimes unlucky, sometimes happy, sometimes sad. So much happened, it's kind of hard to believe it was all in the same year.
I taught many art and comics classes and workshops, delivered some bread for the Tall Grass Bakery when they needed me, drew illustrations for various clients, lettered a graphic novel for Fantagraphics... One of my favorite artists ever, Robert Crumb, made a surprise appearance at the "Carter Family" book signing in Sacramento in April (see below), and I signed the book at events in Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle, and San Francisco as well. Amazingly, I was a cultural ambassador (of comics) to both Serbia and Russia this year (photos from Russia will be posted soon). I attended Comic Con in San Diego and was surprised and very honored when "Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song" tied for the Eisner Award. (The book also won a Toonie Award at Cartoonists Northwest's annual banquet.) I made four new mini-comics (Manifesto Items 2 and 3, Spock Music, and Eyebeams). And sadly, I said goodbye to two co-worker friends, the awesome Kim Thompson at Fantagraphics, and the talented Renee French at Tall Grass Bakery, both of whom lost their battles with cancer. There were lots of other things that happened, but you get the idea: it was an eventful year.
It was so good to see old friends and make new ones, hear live music, make art, see art... Thanks to everyone who came to see me at book events, met me for coffee (or tea), joined me for a walk, emailed or sent a postcard!
I wish you all peace and happiness in the new year, 2014. LLAP (Live long and prosper)!
|Thursday, November 14th, 2013|
| Graphic Novel Northwest! Opening reception Saturday, 11/16
The opening reception for this exhibition of graphic novel art is on Saturday, Nov. 16, from 5 to 7 pm.
I curated the show (and made the poster) at the invitation of my alma mater, Shoreline CC, and chose Seattle artists who have made (or are working on) long-form comics (the literal meaning of "graphic novel"). Original artwork is on display by:
David Lee Ingersoll
Tom Van Deusen
Max Badger Woodring
The exhibition will be on display through November and December in the Administration Building (1000), near the school's main gate. Some of the work will be for sale.Shoreline Community College
is located at 16101 Greenwood Ave, North, in Shoreline, WA. By bus, the #5
from downtown ends its route at the college.
|Wednesday, October 16th, 2013|
|Comics in St Petersburg!
was recently fortunate enough to be invited to Boomfest
in St Petersburg, Russia. The festival's organizer, Dmitry Yakovlev, also publishes graphic novels
and anthologies in Russian. It's a country with a tradition of fine arts and graphic design, but not much of a history for comics, so he and a few others are pioneering the artform there. It was exciting to see the emerging scene.
I gave slide talks and workshops, and met a lot of talented young people who are interested in comics. Most of them were young women! Manga is as influential in Russia as it is elsewhere in the world, and I predict there will be a wave of great graphic novels by Russian women in the next 5 to 10 years.
One very talented young artist I met works under the name Ner-Tamin, but is also known as Julia Nikitina. She has some impressive color art on her livejournal page:http://ner-tamin.livejournal.com/
and has completed her first graphic novel, the tite of which translates as "Wandering Magician".http://spbcomics.ru/shop/comic-books/puteshestviya-charodeya/
Julia comes from the town of Salekhard, in the far north of Russia, on the Arctic Circle. One thing I really like about her graphic novel is that, even though it's a fantasy tale, it draws on folklore and dress from her region and people. At first glance, I thought she was drawing Native Americans -- there is a remarkable similarity in some of the clothing and houses. Julia's art is lovely and the story (though I can't read Russian) looks simultaneously epic and very personal. In conversation, she credited "Elfquest" (one of America's earliest independent comics) as an early influence on her comics.
Another impressive young comics artist is Maria Bogatova, who, as far as I know, has not published her work yet, but posts it online:http://mnvart.tumblr.com/
(These comics are wordless, which is a plus for readers who don't speak Russian!)
I gave a mini-comics workshop at St Petersburg's small but mighty Comics Library
, and Maria (in about an hour) made this nice little autobiographical mini-comic...http://www.flickr.com/photos/dead_pigeon/sets/72157636260452573/with/10123083956/
These are just a few of the things happening in comics in St Petersburg right now. I will try to write a few posts about Boomfest itself and my experiences in Russia (with photos). But first, I am still recovering from Petersburg-to-Seattle jet-lag...UPDATE
: A lovely watercolored comic (in English) by Ania Khazina, who was my interpreter for the workshop at the Comics Library: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anoaz/sets/72157636633035635/with/10317573634/
|Wednesday, September 18th, 2013|
|Thank you, Heeb!
A lot has happened in the summer of 2013... A LOT! And I have neglected to blog about it here. I will make amends soon, but in the mean time, I'm proud to announce that "The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song," by Frank M. Young and myself, has been named one of "HEEB" Magazine's Best Comics of 5773!http://heebmagazine.com/best-5773-comics/47391
L'chaim! And happy new year, everyone!
|Sunday, June 16th, 2013|
|Tuesday, June 11th, 2013|
|Friday, May 24th, 2013|
|Wednesday, May 15th, 2013|
|Cornish BFA Show
Last night I went to Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle's premiere art school, for their annual BFA exhibition, where graduating seniors show off their final projects. There was some great illustration on display by future art stars, Lillian Beaty
and Elaine Lin
, some cool motion graphics by Minie Choi
, and the beginnings of an ambitious cyber-punk comic book by Lyta Sigmen
. There were also some mysterious zines with no name to identify the author, but I wrote down his name: Maxwell Watson.
The Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery curator Larry Reid was there, and noted to me that the new graduates seemed to be divided: either going full-on into digital projects with nothing 'tactile' for the viewer, or taking a step back to look at 20th century technology (typewriters, film cameras, vinyl records, books on paper) and celebrate the more tactile analog culture.
|Sunday, May 12th, 2013|
|Mission Comics Signing Recap
On April 17, 2013, I did a signing at Mission Comics and Art
(on 20th in San Francisco's Mission District, just 12 blocks from where I lived in the summer of 1991; nice to see the old neighborhood again). I met up with Richard Berman beforehand and we talked about our high school days in Virginia and our favorite teacher, William S. Blackwell. At the signing, many more friends and family were in attendance, including my Aunt Karen and Uncle Chris (down from Petaluma!), former Pulse Magazine editor Marc Wiedenbaum, who gave me some of my earliest illustration jobs, James Masente who I once collaborated with, my brother Jason, my father and his wife Mary, and Mary's son Andrew. The big surprise of the day was the appearance one of my favorite cartoonist peers: Gabrielle Gamboa
, who came down from Santa Rosa.
The store's owner, Leef Smith, set up a projector and screen, and I gave a talk on the making of "Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song
". Then I signed some books and left a few copies of Urban Hipster
and The Intruder
. The store was great -- I also did some shopping while I was there! So glad there is a good comic book store in a neighborhood that already sells America's best burritos.
(Oh yes, and I did indulge in a burrito before the event, and managed to spill sauce on my pant legs. I don't think anyone noticed.)
More photos are posted here
|The Surprise of my Life
So I was waiting around at Time Tested Books in Sacramento, where I was scheduled to do a signing in support of the “Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song” graphic novel. It was April 18, 2013, and I was a half hour early. I had asked the legendary cartoonist/musician Robert Armstrong to come and play a few Carter Family songs at the event. I was waiting for him to show up, in the mostly empty store, to see if he needed help setting up. A few minutes before starting time, he walked into the store, and right behind him came a bearded man in spectacles, looking very much like Robert Crumb. I quickly looked away and thought: “That can’t be Robert Crumb!” He lives in France after all. But then again, he and Armstrong used to play together in The Cheap Suit Serenaders. I looked back and found that the bearded man was indeed Robert Crumb, a man many consider to be the world's greatest living cartoonist. He shook my hand and asked if Frank (Young) was going to be there. I told him that Frank would have been there, had he known that his pen-pal R. Crumb was going to attend. I had requested that Armstrong play few Carter Family songs, then a few old time songs of his choosing. The two of them played a lot more than I’d expected, and treated the audience of 25-30 people to what felt like an hour’s worth of music. The Carter Family songs sometimes had gaps in the lyrics; Mr. Armstrong (on a Gibson L5 guitar, Mr. Crumb on Banjo) apologized, explaining that he’d had to “cram” to learn some of these songs, to meet my request. In the second half, with some instrument changes, they played material they were more familiar with, and the musical sparks started to fly.
My father was in attendance, and whispered to me: “Is that really R. Crumb?” “Yes,” I answered. “What’s he doing here?” – “I don’t know.” - “Well, you didn’t give him much of an introduction.” I had nervously introduced “The Two Bobs” and after reading a few prepared remarks about Bob Armstrong (creator of Mickey Rat), simply said: “And this is Bob Crumb, who I’m sure you all know.” So, during an instrument change, I cited my father’s admonishment and tried to give a more proper introduction… “He normally lives in France, but is making a rare appearance here tonight. He’s a comics legend, and he’s my hero; this is a big night for me.”Crumb interrupted: “Your hero?! Harold Gray is your hero.” I agreed and added Frank King to my short list of cartooning heroes. As things wound down, they asked the audience for a request. Someone said: “How about a train song?” Someone else: “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad!” Crumb jumped into "Workin' on the Railroad" and played the whole song beautifully. Armstrong commented something to the effect of: “That’s the last word in Cornball Americana.” They closed with a smokin’ instrumental.When the fun was over, I managed to sign a few books and chat with some old friends who came to the event, two from my high school, one from college, and two Pulse Magazine alums (Jackson Griffith and cartoonist Michael King). Patrons talked with Crumb and Armstrong, and I got to meet cartoonist/musician Christine Shields as well. My father talked politics with Crumb (who showed us his French medical card – “I can get treated and when I leave [the doctor’s office] there is no charge.”). My dad concluded that now it was up to us younger folks to fix all the problems. And so ended one of the best evenings of my life.One final note: The owner of Time Tested Books, Peter Keat, had told Crumb and Armstrong that the Cheap Suit Serenaders had played at his wedding about 30 years ago. Crumb and Armstrong asked the same question that was on my mind: “Has the marriage lasted?” “Yes,” said Mr. Keat, “the marriage has lasted all these years.” Crumb breathed a sigh of relief… “You managed to avoid the curse of the Cheap Suit Serenaders.”
More photos from the event are posted here
. Current Mood: Wow
|Wednesday, May 1st, 2013|
|Final April Poems
Ultimate Wonder Woman
Deflecting bullets, she is knocked unconscious,
Tied up and asked to tell the truth,
"A beautiful woman is still a person,
and wants to be treated as such,"
She escapes, ties the man up,
And demands he tell the truth,
"Men are ruled by biological urges;
Stuggling against them makes us more human."
Flying off, she wonders,
"Why has it always been this way?"
I'm interested in making
A small poster
Let me know what details
You'd like on it
And if it's in color
Or black and white
A white dog
Peers over a
Tall fence expectantly
A tree has a large
Branch sagging to
A girl walks alone her
Long hair hanging
|Sunday, April 28th, 2013|
|April 27 poem
Like the samurai
Who grabs whatever is at hand
To use as a shield
Or as a weapon,
In the notes you jot down
And hidden within
A poem already written