weride

This morning I finished reading Grant Morrison’s Action Comics (New 52) run.  Before reading Action Comics Vol. 3, I re-read the first two volumes and it wasn’t many weeks ago that I finished reading Grant Morrison’s allegedly final Batwords in Batman, Inc. Reading a ton of his work in a fury helps you take a bit of the absurdity with a greater suspension of disbelief. I know he’s a bit of a divider among comic book readers and from what I can tell, I’m in the minority because I particularly like his weird stuff. When I finished reading Action Comics, I wanted to re-read The Filth, one of Morrison’s weirder pieces, but I remembered I had lent it to a friend a while back and he had not returned it. Before you judge my friend too harshly, I don’t mind that he still has the book and earlier this week, he gave me a book for the holidays- a real book, one with very few pictures and none of them in color. Under the circumstances, this book seemed like a logical next step. It’s by Kay Larson and is called Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists. As you can tell from the title, it’s about John Cage, his contemporaries,  and their experiences with and understanding of Zen Buddhism. I see a handful of notable similarities between Grant Morrison and John Cage:

1) They’re both recognized for pushing the boundaries of their fields/mediums. Their boundary pushing is seen and celebrated in both their creative work and personalities.

2) Both have been met by “emperor’s new clothes”-style accusations by critical audiences terribly nervous that a joke might be pulled on them. Similarly their enthusiasts feel compelled to prove how much they “get it.”

3) They helped introduce Eastern ideas to the West in a way the West, in its current state of collective immaturity and general lack of sophistication, could appreciate and create an understanding around. Marco Polo, Herman Hesse, Pearl S. Buck, Allen Ginsberg, Quentin Tarantino, this sort of stuff has been done before. All sorts of technologies are assimilated by way of convenience and necessity when being transported to a different culture.

Both John Cage and Grant Morrison cite experiences with Eastern cultures are having profound influence upon their work. Morrison’s Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero frequently refers to an otherworldly experience that he has during his Eastern travels, which he recreates in 52 among other places. Cage studies Zen Buddhism first at Colombia University and spends the rest of his life pursuing further study. The end product for both of them is risky, but far from unintentional art. Their products are neither copies of the Eastern ideas they attempt to integrate into their own understandings of the world. In their sloppy and unfaithful reproductions of Eastern ideas, they convey an authenticity, a personal experience, something along the lines of art. In time, the Japanese music community has received John Cage quite positively. Listening to the post-rock, electronic, and other avant-garde forms of music that Japan has been exporting since the days of John Cage and Yoko Ono, one can easily recognize a kinship. During my time in China, I never met a local familiar with The Great Ten, but the idea of a Chinese superhero team appealed to the students of my History of Superheroes course. I predict that history will the Chinese approve Morrison’s creation and it will represent something distantly akin to ping pong diplomacy.

The book was a thoughtful gift- I like it when people remember that I’m an experimental music pioneer dodging the spotlight that chases tortured geniuses. The bl-gging stopped for a while when AT&T destroyed my relationship with the internet, but I hope to turn that around and I hope to use this text and other sources in relation to the sequential arts year.

Advertisements