Thursday, March 24, 2005

Your Guide to Finer Living

Uh Oh, I've been linked to.

I'd better post something.

How about some advice:

If you must use a public restroom, avoid the stall where they keep the plunger.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Another reason I'm no good at this "blogging" thing

Did you know there can be whole days when I don't even touch a computer?

Hard to believe, I know.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Discovery of Closure

Some months ago (actually, nearing on a year now) John Barber wrote a couple of articles at Comixpedia, for his Form is Function column, in which he explained how useful he found some of the filmmaking theories of David Mamet and how they pertained to the idea of closure in comics. Closure, he argued, is a good deal of what comics is about, and he expounded his personal rule for good comics writing, "Never Say What You Mean." In a nutshell, what he means is that a cartoonist doesn't have to explicitly illustrate whatever it is they want to show, but that the main points of action (borrowing from film terminology, the "beats") should happen between the panels. This allows for greater involvement as the reader's mind fills in not only the gaps in the sequence but creates the most important parts of the story.(read his articles for yourself here and here)

Another movie director (and another David), David Fincher relates a story about one woman's reaction to one of his movies. Shortly after the movie Seven came out a woman approached Fincher in a restaurant, apparently recognizing him as the director of the film. They chatted for a few moments, and she told him she enjoyed the movie. Then she asked him,
"But did you really have to show Gwynyth Paltrow's head in the box at the end?"
He was taken aback for a second. He had taken no such shot while making the film, and he told the woman so. She persisted the argument. That was what she had seen.
Go back and look at the scene for yourself. The actual shot is a worms-eye view looking up past the box to Morgan Freeman's horrified reaction. Kevin Spacey tells Brad Pitt that Paltrow's head is in the box and both Pitt and Freeman reacts as if they've seen it, but no severed head is actually shown. The woman in the restaurant had been so involved by the story that after the fact she believed she had actually seen the head. Even to the point of arguing with the director.

I first read Barber's collaboration with Alexander Danner The Discovery of Spoons about a week or two ago. Barber's artwork for the piece, very clean and anticeptic, is a perfect compliment to Danner's bleak take on corporate life's effect on individual creative expression. One image stuck in my head. A shot of a man standing at the kitchen counter. Stark graphic linework on the sparest wash of muted color, highlighting a kind of emotional disconnect between the man and his surroundings (or perhaps there is nothing in his surroundings to connect to, emotionally). His back is to us so we cannot see his face, but he is dressed in typical business attire. He has just poured himself a glass of water to wash down a bad poem. The image stayed with me for days.

The other day I read the comic again.

That panel, the image that stuck with me, the one I could see so clearly in my head. That image doesn't exist. Not only is that panel not actually part of the comic but, re-reading it, I realized the entire story is rendered without depicting a single human figure. It was all in my mind.

I don't know whose idea it was to draw the entire comic without showing even one human being. It could have been either Danner or Barber, they both seem to know what they're doing. But it was a brilliant touch for a story where the absence of creative expression is so important. By the absence of any human beings, humanity itself is so highlighted. The main idea of the comic is reached only through closure. Not just between panels, but behind the very comic itself.

Well played gentlemen, well played.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Say it Aint So: The Last Webcomics Examiner

A new Webcomics Examiner out today.
Could be the last.

Joe Zabel says:
The Webcomics Examiner is going on an indefinite hiatus.

Unfortunately, our current staff have other demands on their time that make it difficult to continue. Also, we're suffering from burn-out. "Discerning criticism," it turns out, is hard work.

The Examiner may return in the future, with new editors and new writers. But in any case, this chapter of the publication has come to a close.

We set out to capture a snapshot of an evolving medium, as discerned by a small group of writers during a pause in the action. We hope the results have meant as much to you as they have to us.

The WCE has always been kind to my work ( I'm flattered to have two of my comics mentioned in this issue). I have come to personally regard them as an invaluable resource for my own discovery of the wide world of webcomics.

While I certainly understand their decision, I am nevertheless sorry to see them go.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Quick Post: Seriously, folks

The book is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski.
The similarities extend far beyond the title, as well.

(I guess I just insulted you all.)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

In defense of my review of Jack Masters' House of Stairs

To my imaginary enemies:

Upon reflection, and despite what you say, I've come to consider the brief review of Jack Masters' House of Stairs (posted at this very journal several days prior) as perhaps the most near perfect summation of said work as is possible. Succinct for its lack of specifics and reflective even of the work itself. The sparse language approaches poetry, or perhaps even an artform unto itself. At first glance it may appear lacking in style and structure but a closer inspection reveals untold depths, matching and perhaps exceeding even that of its subject. Doubtlessly study of the work will continue well into the coming centuries as each successive generation pulls new and greater knowledge from these few humble lines. A golden example for the ages.

But lets us start at the beginning.

The review of course opens with a lie.

"I just read through all of Jack Master's House of Stairs for the first time."

At the outset we know that the very suggestion that one could read through all of a work such as the House of Stairs is immediately laughable. The sophisticated webcomics reader will know, as no one has repeatedly pointed out to me, that the very architecture of the House is in constant flux. Like the Escher print that coincidentally bears the same name, the House offers no fixed point of reference. With out the proper vantage, a map (if you will) of the whole work is doomed to failure. Indeed any map of the work must itself be subject to the constant shifts in both topology and perspective the House has to offer. And a view of the entirety of the work is not possible when the entirety remains hidden from view.

And yet we see that the author (myself) must have known all this. That the lie is obvious and therefore transparent. There must be more here than what is immediately obvious. A closer reading of this first sentence reveals clues to the truths hidden behind the lie.

Leading in the first person, singular "I," the reviewer establishes the personal impact of the piece. Reinforcing the conversational bond between reviewer and audience the words "just and "for the first time" emphasize the apparent spontaneity of the reviews lines. Interesting to note also is the carefully misplaced use of the apostrophe in "Master's". A brilliant touch which highlights the seemingly natural flow of creation. This spontaneity itself is suspect, however, and is revealed as a clever ruse with which to draw the reader in. The author intentionally tips his hand in the fourth word.

Perhaps our most important clue, "through" signifies many things. Foremost among them is the suggestion of a sort of journey. The savvy reader will instantly recognize the implications in that particular turn of phrase. The idea of a journey through the House of Stairs presupposes an entrance, which as we all know is But, when taken with the word "all," it also implies an exit. This is not possible, no one has said to me. After all even Drew Weing could not find his way out of the House of Stairs.

Any journey worth taking leaves us changed. Even with a false journey, such as the one represented in the opening line of the review, we cannot help but be shaped and molded. Formed into something new by what we have learned. As established, a journey through the House of Stairs is not feasible. A house of only stairs can have no floors. But as for the review itself...

Encapsulated in a few short lines, the review sets us on a completely new journey. The importance of which is not lost but enhanced in the brevity of the work. And this journey comes to its ultimate fruition in the second and last line of the piece.

"It reminds me (somewhat) of a book I once read. "

Such beauty in that line. The echos of House of Stairs are strongest here. Imperfect reflections, as all echos are, that only serve to enhance the effect of the narrative (for, indeed we have gone beyond mere review here). Allusions abound to other existing works. The direct reference to "a book I once read" leaves us with a sense of mystery and perhaps a hint at greater depths. The book the author refers to is never explicitly stated. Revealing the title of said book would only serve to insult the readers intelligence and thus it is wisely left out.

The tendrils of thought and theory expressed in the first half of the review, like those of the work itself, extend in every conceivable direction. As in comics, if you'll pardon the metaphor, spatial and temporal relationships become one and the same. Memory (brought to play here by the use of "reminds") is both our strongest and our weakest sense, simultaneously tied to both past experience and current perspective. And so the author reaches into our very hearts to guide us to the truth. Wrapping it all up, the parenthetical "somewhat" underscores the uncertainty of all life (we are talking about true Art here, and what is Art but a reflection and amplification of life). It is in the knowledge of that uncertainty that we find the true meaning in the House of Stairs. In two short sentences we have come full circle.

Two lines.

Scant lines seemingly jotted in haste. And yet in these two lines is the key not only to the work in question but to that which is life itself. It's foundations, like those of the House of Stairs, are built in the ether of other's dreams. It begins with a lie that leads to a truth, which in turn leads to a greater truth. Or perhaps more accurately (and as true of all great Art) it points us the way to the truth. A way tied deeply in history and tradition yet wholly and utterly unique. It is a piece that not only conveys the essence of the work it purports to review, but also the great mysteries and vagaries of the House of Stairs we call life.

So good day to you, dear enemies. I trust you are satisfied with my explanation, unnecessary as it may be to most. Perhaps now we can put the matter of the last few days to rest and move on to our mutual higher goals.

Tym Godek
Wooster, 2005

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Oh yeah. I have a blog.

So far I'm not very good at this blogging thing.

I just read all the way through Jack Master's House of Stairs for the first time.

It reminds me (somewhat) of a book I once read.

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