Out and about (October 2009)

I’m midway through lots of things—first season of Mad Men, Fran Ross’s Oreo, design and writing for zine #2, the latest issue of n+1, a re-viewing of Whisper of the Heart—but it feels like I haven’t finished anything in ages. I go through these spells, and work’s been rough. (Also, did I mention that my wedding plans have moved up from May 2010 to November 2009? So, there’s that, too.) So, this month’s “Out and about” column might feel a little rushed, and without as many quotes, context, or a through-line of thought that I would prefer. Still, it’s time to get it up, and get moving on. Here we go.

Lawrence Weschler has followed David Hockney’s art career for 25 years; the best chronicle of Hockney is, and will likely always be, Weschler’s True to Life. Hockney, who sees himself primarily as a painter, engages cagily with new technology. While he’s ambivalent about visual arts created by new technology—the camera, motion pictures, video—Hockney nevertheless uses them, and often seems obsessed by unlocking technology’s potential to do things they weren’t exactly intended to do. (For more on this, hear Weschler discuss Hockney here; scroll down to 6 October 2009.) And now… Hockney’s sketching on his iPhone to good effect. Weschler, as always, coaxes out the artist’s intentions and articulates them beautifully. There’s an audio slideshow, too.

Speaking of which, filmmaker Sally Potter discusses her latest feature, Rage, which is intended to be seen on your cellphone. Armond White offers an appreciative, though typically combative, review here.

Digital visuals: This week at the House Next Door, there’s a raging symposium on Pixar Studios. There, film critics Ed Howard and Jason Bellamy are continuing their monthly argument, this time about the relative merits of the studio and its output.

Going back to celluloid… The Siren shows some of the ambivalence I have toward Mad Men. She offers ten alternative movies—made during and about the era that Mad Men depicts—that offer more compelling and perhaps more honest takes on early-1960s urban American mores.

Nancy Nall explains why she’s never eating store-bought ground meat again. Yikes.

Derik Badman gives us his recipe for miso soup, as a comic.

Younger comics scholar Charles Hatfield—full disclosure: I’m his editor—examines the state of comics studies and where it needs to go to become more sustainable and disciplined. Rusty Witek, an elder statesman in the field, responds at length.

Over at Monitor Mix, Carrie Brownstein explores the music of Phish, ditching as many preconceived notions as she could.  Search around the Monitor Mix's log to find all ten entries, but here’s the first and the last entries.

Matthew Dessem trains his customary close eye on my favorite Archers movie, I Know Where I'm Going!

Using The Dick Van Dyke Show as a springboard, Lance Mannion talks about what writing is and what it is not.

Finally, here’s one for my stepdad. He and I have a longstanding argument about the merits of Gore Vidal. Stepdad thinks Vidal is one of America’s greatest essayists. I admire Vidal’s politics (to a degree) and commend his living his public life as an openly gay figure, at a time when his outspokenness on both fronts probably caused him hell. But, Lord, I can’t stand him, and I think the smugness, patrician snobbery, and open contempt of anyone who disagrees with him—as expressed in interview and in his essays—makes him just the Left’s version of Ayn Fucking Rand. (It’s no wonder he and William F. Buckley Jr. hated each other so thoroughly—watch Vidal call Buckley a crypto-Nazi and Buckley call Vidal a queer and threaten to punch him here, on live television. They’re flipsides of each other, down to the WASP accents and vocal delivery, and they know it.) For me, the last straw was when Vidal befriended (his word, not mine) Timothy McVeigh, a mass murderer whose victims included 19 children, and who never quite apologized for the bombing. Anyway, in this long profile, Johann Hari does as good a job as anyone of getting underneath Vidal’s skin, and at articulating my distrust/disagreement/grudging engagement with his life and motives.

That is all.

UPDATE: Tom Sutpen's weekly photo series focuses on Francis Wolff's shots of jazz musicians in the studio.  Fantastic.

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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One Response to Out and about (October 2009)

  1. Eddie Lee says:

    Dearest Son: By most reports Sinatra was a most reprehensible person, as was the poet Mr. Frost. Their work still thrills and inspires me. An essayist (print blogger) who keeps at it is going to produce a large body of work. Some of that output will not stand up to keen scrutiny. Gore Vidal’s best work, like your best work, is superb: shocking, challenging, entertaining, articulate, important. But while you have a long, promising career ahead of you, Mr. Vidal, in his season of decline, has taken on the sad mantle of King Leer, in all his looney rantings. Heed not this voice. Cue up the Nelson Riddle arrangements, and read “At home in a Roman Street”, “Homage to Daniel Shays”, or “Remembering Orson Welles”. Pompous Ass? Probably. Terrific writer? Absolutely. Keep up the good work. Love, the stepdad

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