Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A More Serious Gripe

The proliferation of 'Vote for Pedro' t-shirts makes me sick. I saw one on TV - TV! - a few days ago and I almost threw something. Just thinking about it pisses me off.

That's all.

Going too far

Atom Egoyan is a Canadian filmmaker. I've seen most of his features and enjoyed all of them (Exotica is bizarre enough to be amazing, not unlike David Lynch's Mulholland Dr., which....whoof). He's been working on his latest film, Where The Truth Lies, for a while now, and it should be out any time now. Whether I'll be able to see it or not is another issue.

The MPAA has given the film an NC-17 rating. The film features a menage รก trois scene between the three lead characters (played by Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth, and Rachel Blanchard). About the scene, Egoyan said, "It cannot be cut without compromising the central scene of the narrative and thus rendering the mystery of the film incomprehensible."

A friend of mine found this shocking that the film should receive such an "awful rating". She posed the question: has Atom Egoyan gone too far?

The first thing that struck me was the use of the word 'awful' in regards to the NC-17 rating. Why is it awful? I'm twenty-two, and I wasn't planning to take any 17-and-unders to see the film with me when it comes out, so what's the big deal? The thing is, there's a stigma around NC-17. It just looks bad, doesn't it? NC-17. We're just so used to seeing the PG or the R (and, really, R ratings mean nothing anymore - I was never carded when I was under 16) that anything different is scary. The first NC-17 film I can remember was Showgirls, which I never saw but I remember hearing a lot about. It was so scandalous, and I honestly can't remember if it was because of Elizabeth Berkeley or because of the rating. Probably a little bit of both.

I must admit that the MPAA's rating guidelines have grown looser of late, which I have no problem with - again, I'm a mature adult, I can handle whatever you want to throw at me. So I suppose for something to warrant an NC-17 rating, it'd have to be pretty graphic. Having not seen the film, I can't make a call as to whether or not the MPAA is right in their rating. This brings me back to the question of going too far. If I find something disturbing, what does that mean? I think that says something more about me than it does the thing which disturbs me.

More importantly, can an artist go too far?

In my opinion, no. If Egoyan had felt okay about cutting down the threesone scene, that's totally his call. But I have to applaud the fact that he stuck to his guns and isn't cutting anything. The minute an artist lets some committee dictate his/her art is the minute that that art is no longer their own.

I'm a writer. I suppose I would consider myself an artist. I believe that a writer's objective is to aspire to tell an entertaining and interesting story that reveals something about character and maybe about human nature. If someone tells me that I've gone too far or that I have to change something, I'll listen to their argument, of course, but ultimately, if I disagree with them, I won't change it. You do what you have to to best serve the story.

I wrote a story a few years ago, and the climax of the story is this guy strangling this woman. The story builds to this almost from the beginning, and it's pretty much the inevitable conclusion, if you ask me (what do I know, though, I wrote the thing). As he's strangling her, he's enraged and irrational and screaming and swearing at her and one of the last things he says before he snaps her wind pipe is "You....fucking....cunt...". I remember workshopping that in class, and more than a few people took issue with the use of that word. It's a harsh word, I know. I have personally never used that word, ever, I find it terribly offensive, but it served the story. He objectified her in that moment as he was crushing the life out of her, and, I feel, it had to stay in. That one little word - because really, it is just a word, but it's what's behind that word that makes it what it is - revealed so much about his character, I just couldn't change it. If an explicit threesome scene best serves the story, then that's what stays in (Explicit is another word that has a bit of a stigma around it, isn't it?).

Now I want to open it up to anyone that might read this (I know there's a few of you, at least I hope there is). I really would like to hear what other people think about this.

Can an artist go too far?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I miss living on-campus...

I'm not sure how to describe this.

I don't know how it is at other universities, but here at BGSU, you have to fill out a survey when you apply for campus housing, and they match you up with a roommate based on that survey. I think maybe they should consider revising this system.

1. I am a....
a. Smoker
b. Non-Smoker

2. I consider myself...
a. A morning person
b. A night person
c. Neither

3. I am...
a. A neat person
b. A messy person
c. Prone to psychotic rages

4. When faced with a conflict with a roommate, I...
a. Try to resolve the conflict with an open, rational dialogue
b. Report the conflict to an authority figure who can mediate the situation
c. Bludgeon my roommate with a hot iron, to the point of fracturing my roommate's skull
d. Other

5. I enjoy...
a. Reading
b. Partying
c. Buckeyes Football
d. Kicking puppies

(Honestly, I'm not sure which is worse on that last one, c or d...)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Picking Up Crap

My brother and his wife recently went out of town, leaving me to house-sit for them. I've done this for them in the past, and I've always enjoyed it. They have Direct TV, which is clearly a step up from basic cable at my parents' house and no cable in my apartment at school. I spend half my time not actually watching anything, but just scrolling down the menu screen to see what my options are. I usually don't end up watching anything different from what I would usually watch, but it's a nice feeling to know that, if I get bored with my normal programming, there are two hundred other channels to choose from.

Also included in the house-sitting duties is the care of my brother's dog, Boris. Walk him, feed him, play with him, keep him company. I had a dog as a kid, and I remember what a pain in the ass it was then, but that's just because I was thirteen and lazy. Now I am twenty-two and lazy, but the care of the dog seems like less of a pain now than it was then. I'd like to think it's the wisdom of age, but I'm pretty sure that that's bull. Maybe I'm just less lazy now.

Whenever I take the dog out on a walk, I have to carry along a plastic bag. This bag serves one purpose and one purpose only: it's what I use to pick up Boris's crap after he gets rid of it. It's a shit bag. I don't disagree with a law that says we can't leave dog crap everywhere, but it's still a little annoying. I'm not sure which is more humiliating: having your dog crap on someone's lawn while they watch, or having your dog crap on someone's lawn and then picking it up with a plastic bag while they watch. I've never actually had either of them happen to me, but every time I take Boris out, I worry that today will be the day. Someone's going to watch me pick up crap today.

Invariably, as I'm walking back to the house, full shit-bag in hand, with Boris leading the way, I get to wondering. If there is intelligent life in the universe, and they happen to be watching me at that moment, what do they see? They see a furry, four-legged animal, leading around a larger, two-legged animal, and the two-legged animal is carrying a bag of of the furry animal's shit with him. What are they going to think? 'The furry one maintains dominance over the large one! Look at how it leads the other on a leash!' Boris really does drag me along with him when we go for walks - again, I'm lazy - and, with very few exceptions, I just go where he wants to go. There would be no discernable evidence to indicate that the relationship between dog and human is anything other than master and servant.

Boris spends most of his time laying around the house, looking out the window and doing nothing. It seems like a pretty good deal for him, and I can't say I haven't wished to try it. So one day I did. Nevermind that I was sick at the time, but I replicated Boris's behavior the best I could. I took time out from sitting in my brother's recliner to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon. I watched bad sitcom reruns on TBS and struggled to stand up to get something to eat. Even once I got the food, I was too tired (or lazy, I'm not sure which) to chew it; I was thus limited to a regiment of apple sauce and bottled water. At the end of the day, I looked over at Boris, fast asleep on the couch, and wondered to myself how he could keep up the breakneck pace of his everyday life.

As much as I envied Boris, though, I had to remember that, whereas I could eat at any time, Boris had to wait to be fed. I could hit the head whenever I wanted to, but Boris was again forced to wait for someone to let him outside. It's a small price to pay, I suppose, for the sheer entertainment that must come from seeing someone pick up your feces with a plastic bag.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Remember that time...

In the last post, I said I'd spent a lot of money on stuff I didn't really need. Well at that point I didn't know what spending money on stuff I didn't really need actually was.

It was 1:30 on Sunday when I ran into Ed Brubaker on the floor. He signed a chunk of Gotham Central for me, and I asked him if Michael Lark (the artist on GC) would be signing anywhere. He told me Lark was in Artist's Alley. If you don't know, Artist's Alley is just what it sounds like - rows and rows of artists and independant comic makers. They spend the con in the Alley, drawing and peddling their wares and trying desperately to get people to so much as acknowledge their existence. I've found that, in order to survive Artist's Alley, walk in the dead center of the aisle and make eye contact with the artists at your own risk. It's harsh, I know, but it works. I absolutely appreciate what the people in the Alley are doing, and I wish I had a book of my own so I could join them. But still, there's something sad about the desperation that is apparant in so many of them. They're trying to live their dream to the best of their ability, and a lot of them just don't have the chops to do it. It's rough.

So I ventured into Artist's Alley, Gotham Central issues in hand, and made a bee-line for where I was pretty sure Mike Lark's table was (Brubaker told me Lark was near Michael Gaydos's table, which I had passed earlier in the day). I wandered a bit until I found him. He had a portfolio of original art on the table and was signing when I arrived. He signed my books, and I discovered why he left the title (and DC Comics) to begin with. Apparantly there were issues with the colorist not doing what Lark had requested on multiple occasions. And I'm sure Marvel offered him a boatload of money, too. But anyway.

Lark signed my Gotham Centrals for me, and as he did so, I flipped through his portfolio of stuff for sale. This was my first mistake.

And then I saw it. Gotham Central #15, page 20. The climactic page to the 'Soft Targets' storyline, and a page that would set up storylines for the next two years. Nevermind all of that, this page was just plain badass. There were two copies of this page in the portfolio. The first was simply the pencils to the page, which Lark drew on what looked to be a page out of a sketchbook; the second was the page inked by Stefano Gaudiano on bristol paper. So I asked how much it was. This was my second mistake.

Lark called his art dealer, who told him the pencilled page was $150, and if I bought that, the inked page would be only $50 more. It was announced on Friday that Michael Lark would be the new artist on Daredevil once Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev finished their run. I expect that, once he takes over art chores on that book, he will take off in popularity and the price for his original art will skyrocket. It was with that in mind that I told Lark I would think about the page and walked away from his table.

Twenty minutes later I went back and bought the page. Pencils only, no inks, although I'm thinking I should've bought those, too. Here it is...

Isn't that fucking sweet? This is the first page of original sequential art that I own; the other pieces of original art that I own are a Phil Jimenez pin-up of Linda Park, and a Flash cover that I commissioned from a friend of mine, Blake Wilkie (Atomic Pop Art is the studio he's a part of, they're pretty cool themselves). I'm thinking about another piece of Lark Gotham Central art, but for now I think I need to nurse my bank account back to health...

So yeah, the trip to Chicago cost me a total of $611 (not including ticket cost and a few dinners), but it was worth every penny.

Next stop: Toronto's Canadian National Expo. August 26-28.

Saturday, August 6, 2005

They send one of yours to the hospital...

(Ten points to whoever knows what movie that's from and can identify why it's relevant)

It is now Day Two of the Wizard World convention in Chicago, IL. I had meant to blog over the last couple of days on the goings-on at the con and outside of it, but...well, I've been busy. It's my vacation, get off my back.

Last year there was all sorts of excitement with Bendis and Bob Wayne and the 'Daredevil/Batman' crossover that never got off the ground because DC Editorial hates Joe Quesada. This year? Nothing like that. Kind of disappointing, honestly, but then, I guess not every comics convention can have an incident that is akin to a professional wrestling match, even if there are actual professional wrestlers here.

There's a few things of interest, at least to me. I couldn't care less if anyone else cares.
1. Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark are the new creative team on Daredevil. As Quesada himself admitted, this has been comics worst kept secret for the past two years, but just because everyone expected it doesn't mean it isn't awesome. Brubaker and Lark are two/thirds of the original Gotham Central team, and if they can bring the same grittiness to Daredevil which they did to GC, I'll be sticking with the book.
2. Jeph Loeb has signed an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics. What this means for the future of the Supergirl title (BLEARGH but I'll read it because I am DC's bitch), I do not know. Still, while he's not one of the three chief architects of Infinite Crisis, he's still been involved since day one. Arguably everything that's taken place in the pages of Superman/Batman has something to do with IC (I really think Supergirl's return will be explained somehow by this), so...who knows.
3. Greg Rucka is a REALLY cool guy. For the kind of stuff he writes, you wouldn't think he would have such a great sense of humor. He's just a really cool guy. Well, he and Mark Waid, but I already knew that Waid was the coolest person ever.

I've spent a lot of money on stuff I didn't really need. I got some great sketches, and nearly the complete run of Gotham Central signed by its creative team. And I've had a life-changing experience, the kind you can only have on a trip away from home. Except maybe not the last part. But I've had a hell of a time anyway.

A weekend wrap-up some time next week, for all of you who read this. And you know who you are.