Archives for posts with tag: Roland Barthes

ronniedaily

Dear Jon Stewart,

After more than fifteen years of hosting The Daily Show, you’re moving on to pursue other interests. While you will be missed, the decision is quite understandable and the world waits to see what you will do with your new found free time. Your recent foray into professional wrestling seems to be a positive indicator for things to come- the kind of thing Barthes or Kaufman would’ve done. You resemble the intellectual love child of those two gentlemen.

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I also admire your directorial debut Rosewater telling the harrowing story of Maziar Bahari. As a television star and film director, you perform much better than as a film star.

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While socially important, Rosewater was also pretty funny. That seems to be the paradigm in which you function best. Some of your directing techniques were hit and miss, but it’s your first movie and my criticisms may be a bit nitpicky. The actor you got to play Jason Jones looked almost identical to him, except a little fatter. I liked how you employed certain techniques like showing Dr. Strangelove and the Ayatollah on the street, but I thought the hashtag following everyone in the city was a bit heavy-handed, obvious, corny. Still, it was a good movie. My wife and I made a real date of it. We watched it on Amazon Prime and ordered take-out from one of your favorite restaurants- American Roast Beef? Yes, Sir!

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Let me encourage to make more films- perhaps reboot Bob Fosse’s Lenny or maybe that’s too obvious. Franz Fanon bio-pic? Maybe stick with Iran and get Alan Arkin to play Mossadegh before he dies. Perhaps something with Jello Biafra- I know you have those punk rock roots like a punk rock tree. I’d be remiss if I didn’t push you to follow your destiny- the ring chose you for a reason.

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Especially when there are still so many dangerous lunatics wielding the yellow light of fear.

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I’m not just writing this letter to congratulate you, but to express some concerns about the state of your legacy.

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While it was sad to see Colbert go, I’ve enthusiastically welcomed Larry Wilmore and the Nightly Show. I’m not crazy about that name- I still think Minority Report works better. I take beef with some of the ways Wilmore has been cheated. 1) His budget is obviously less than Colbert’s. His correspondents never get to travel. 2) Hulu is racist. My wife and I used to watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report on Hulu and whenever the Daily Show would finish, it would immediately offer Colbert. Now that Colbert’s done and you have a new sister show, Hulu is subtly driving viewers away from your family of shows. When the Daily Show finishes, Hulu brings up Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, or some other white guy named Jimmy. What’s up with that? Before you leave, you should tell Hulu to cut that shit out.

I’m also pretty concerned about who is going to take over your responsibilities as host of the Daily Show. Is there anyone in the bullpen up to the task? You’ve got a great crew of writers and on-air personalities, but I believe their destinies lie somewhere besides behind the fake news desk. While I strongly discourage letting another short white man host the show, Henry Rollins should at least be on the short list (no pun intended). Have you considered either Harold or Kumar? They could’ve gotten George W. Bush on the show and, in all fairness, they make a better marijuana comedy than you. If Hillary doesn’t win in 2016, she’s pretty funny. Both Obamas will be coming into some free time soon. Cecily Strong may also seem like a good choice, but I discourage recycling Weekend Update alums on the Daily Show. It’s like watching porn that an ex-girlfriend is in. Beyond Harold or Kumar, my strongest recommendation would be Aisha Tyler- she’s funny, smart, quick on her feet, and quite easy on the eyes.

Whoever you chose as your successor, make it count. It’s a great responsibility, which sometimes accompanies radioactive spiderbites.

In conclusion, Jon Stewart of Earth, the World’s Second Greatest Detective wishes you luck.

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The cosplay phenomenon manifested itself, mostly at a grassroots level, from the collision of social forces old and new. Equal parts post-modern hyper-consumerism and ancient ritual, cosplay combines humanity’s celebration of its own imagination and a refusal to accept its natural limits. Like mating dances and funeral marches, it is inherently sexual with its multiple sexual identities decided by its multiple audiences. Through cosplay, the cosplayer rejects their reality in favor of a reality augmented by a fantasy element. The act is both self-destructive and self-affirming. It is both personal and social. During the act, the cosplayer is constantly engaging the character being recreated and through this process, an intimacy is created. For fans of those character, observing others in the cosplay act can stimulate their own feelings of intimacy will the character, exponentially increasing the Barthesian experience of an author losing control of their work while the audience creates its own text from its own understanding of the work. People are attracted to the cosplay community because of the orgy of it all, the give and take of cerebral and sexual signs that compel visceral responses from the intellectual and physiological self.

Cosplay is real people, but it isn’t. The characters are generally more professional than the actors. Cosplay succeeds when it blurs the lines between its multiple realities in interesting ways. Lex Luthor is obvious in the Prometheus suit, but what about his birthday suit? Craftsmanship, creativity, and courage are characteristics that greatly benefit a cosplayer. Veidt.com is a unique voice in the cosplayer universe. Describing themselves as “a stupid little fansite celebrating alt cosplay, post-human culture, and parody,” Veidt offers what a lot of people are looking for in their cosplay- nudity. Veidt is not a pornographic site, but it will likely stir a few of those feelings you discovered during puberty. In addition to its erotic character, Veidt maintains a minimalist aesthetic more John Waters than Andrew Blake, punker than it is pretty.

Additionally, Veidt stands on the merits of its own street credibility or rather its geekdom authenticity. Named after the ozziest of the Watchmen, Veidt demonstrates flawlessly a genuine interest and understanding of comics’ rich culture without the need to boast Comic-Book-Guy-style about its own authority. At a time when an embarrassing number of males in the sci-fi community are attacking females in the community under the ridiculous charge of being fake nerds, Veidt is a site maintained by women that are real nerds- I mean that as a compliment, of course. Sure, you will find Supergirl and Catwoman on their site, but also several Green Lanterns (even a pre-Red Lantern Green Lantern), characters from independent comics, characters of their own creation, and other characters of varying obscurity.

Anyway, I spoke with some of the ladies at Veidt.com and did a few Wayne Xiao Long interpretations of some of their photos. I encourage you to check out their site to see what it is these remarkable women do.

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INTERVIEW WITH THE WOMEN OF VEIDT.COM

WXL: Who are you?

VEIDT.COM: I’m the concept artist behind the alt cosplay site Veidt.com, which encompasses pretty much everything on there, except for the part that actually matters- wearing the costumes.

WXL: You maintain a site that features pop culture news and your opinions, but is mainly known for featuring beautiful and beautifully tattooed women dressed as characters from video games, comic books, and your own imagination. Unlike many other cosplay sites, yours sometimes offers a more intimate look at the bodies of the cosplay models. It’s a very popular site that doesn’t generate income, right? So, my question is, why do you do it?

VEIDT.COM: This was never intended as a for-profit venture, it’s a silly little art project that’s somehow developed a following. There are very definitely real costs to the stuff we do, but have been quite fortunate that whenever we put up a crowdfunding campaign to keep going, the audience has responded. I’m so grateful for their interest and support, which has allowed us to continue growing.

That’s not to suggest there’s anything wrong with generating revenue. I’m very much a fan of capitalism, and will do other things, but I’d like to keep Veidt as freely available as I can, for the foreseeable.

WXL: Your site gives the impression that all of you are friends. How did you meet each other?

VEIDT.COM: There’s definitely a couple of interesting stories there.

People seem to have a lot of distinct impressions about the site and I kinda like that it’s open to interpretation. As long as they know the shoots are very much a collaboration, and that the best ideas often aren’t coming from me, they can think whatever they like.

I am working right now on a story that combines some of the history and experiences of the site, as a foundation for some radical leaps of imagination, to do something I haven’t seen in comics. Ideally, would love to find the right artist to work with, and make it an open-ended one-off comic book. But if not, I suppose it will go out at some point as a prose piece, with supplemental sketches and photos.

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WXL: Two characters your site is particularly fond of recreating are the Green Lantern characters Star Sapphire and Arisia Rrab. These are both characters under the thumb of Hal Jordan in pretty demeaning ways. By becoming Star Sapphire, any of Carol Ferris’s personality other than her love for Hal ceases to exist, revealing a very outdated perception of women. Arisia Rrab is Hal Jordan’s thirteen year-old girlfriend that alters her appearance to allow Hal to continue his pedophilia when they return to Earth. These women surrender control and even meaning over their lives to a man so easily and yet the models on your site seem to have taken a great deal of control over how they use their bodies and they allow themselves to be publicly represented. Was this a conscious choice to use such characters? More generally, what are your intellectual objectives with the site? How do you define the feminist components of your work? What is your contribution to our collective and your individual struggles with gender?

VEIDT.COM: It’s even weirder, as Hal Jordan doesn’t really mean anything to me. The first DC series I devoured, outside of some Batman books, was Grant Morrison’s JLA, which had Kyle Rayner. That lead me to track down the Keith Giffen run, which came highly recommended, and that’s wall to wall Guy Gardener. And then the JL cartoon was John Stewart…all of those characters had great moments, and strong personalities, so when all of the focus seemed to suddenly shift to Hal Jordan, I didn’t get it. I have no idea what’s supposed to make him better than these other guys, and in fact my biggest exposure to Hal was the pacifist fighter pilot nonsense in the beginning of The New Frontier, and that almost made me stop reading- fortunately, I persevered through…it is an exceptional story.

Very aware of the back-stories of Arisia and Star Sapphire, and would love to go off on a screed about Arisia, in particular, but I’ve actually channeled my reactions to and fascination with that character into the more fictional aspect of the story I mentioned working on. Don’t want to spoil that, but I hope it makes for an interesting / alternate / unexpected take on an utterly absurd, yet compelling character.

As for our cosplay shoots inspired by these characters, there’s definitely a degree of satire by exaggeration behind them. Also, one of the motivations for the images was to try to channel some of the comic book, post-human world into our mundane reality. I don’t think I’ve succeeded at conveying that, as the most consistent criticism is of things like power outlets and light switches in the background. That was kind of the point, and I guess I fail at subtext for having to come out and explain it.

And while I appreciate the question on intellectual objectives, I haven’t earned that. I got accepted to CalArts after hs, but didn’t get to go (parents wouldn’t pay for art school.), made and maintained friendships with some people there, though, and because I had an outsider perspective, was able to see how uncomfortable it could get when people spoke way too much about their process. Not taking your work too seriously, I think that’s actually admirable, and can be an asset. But radically overestimating the audience’s interest in the people behind the work, or being an obv try-hard at personal brand building, is just…*shudder.*

I’ve gotten some fascinating feedback from all kinds of people, who’ve noted many things that were, and many that definitely weren’t, intentional. I appreciate getting people’s responses to this stuff.

WXL: Your site celebrates women in comic books and satisfies a desire than many people have. Most people that search for my site end up here because they were looking for naked pictures of Zatanna or some other comic book femme. It’s great they have your site for stuff like that. Are there any male comic book characters that you like to create costumes for and shoot pictures of?

VEIDT.COM: Well, I’m not short on volunteers, which is nice.

We actually did one this year, a Namor shoot for April Fool’s. A friend of mine has achieved some real fame in a particular niche, and he’s got the classic olympic swimmer’s build, so we did this…intending it to be a joke, but it actually turned out kind of amazing. Rarely look at my stuff and think, there’s a shot that could actually sell as a print, or something, but this set had one.

Sadly, someone close to him didn’t appreciate it, and I was asked to sit on them. That’s happened before, someone asking not to run certain pictures, which is fine, but this one kinda hurt.

If I don’t get the okay to use them soon, I’ll try reshooting it with someone else, as the costume and location really worked, and I’m curious to see what kind of reaction the pics might get on the site. We’ve gotten positive feedback from a pretty diverse array of people, so I’m hopeful some might be open to it.

Either way, there’s at least one other idea I has incorporating a male character; will get that done this summer, too.

WXL: Many of your shoots are in rather public locations. Could you share some interesting encounters with or reactions from the general population? Anyone cast a hex or proposition you?

VEIDT.COM: My favorite thing in the world is going hiking, really late at night. Running up and down hills, climbing and jumping like an idiot, it’s very effective for stimulating introspection and creative thought. Started doing it at night because when I’d go during the day, would occasionally run into another hiker, and that took me out of the moment, and tended to made me self-conscious. I bring this up to sort-of convey that I try to avoid people, generally, no matter what I’m doing. [And should the updates on the site abruptly stop, I’m likely dead somewhere in the Santa Monica mountains, or thereabouts. Hiking at night is very fun, but also dangerous and dumb. It’s cool, though, I will have gone out doing what I loved.

So yeah,  we have used public locations, but I’ve studied them in advance, and felt confident we could work there without running into anyone. It doesn’t always work out that way, though. We were shooting on a fire escape, once, and gradually became aware of this squat little guy masturbating from his window in the adjacent building, with a big smile on his face. We waved, and quickly went elsewhere.

It was a little surreal going into a comic store in LA, not long ago, and a couple people were looking at the Post-Human Pin-Up ebook on an iPad. They were going through it, occasionally talking about it, and I’m 3 feet away listening intently, having that comic book moment where Peter Parker has the imaginary half Spider-Man mask on his face, or Bruce Wayne’s shadow suddenly has bat ears, or whatever.

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WXL: I’m guessing that all of the models on your site have thought about this question before. Which comic book character do you think you personally could portray best on screen?

MARNIE: Cassie Hack, mofo!
HAN:  We just did Ravager, she’s the character i most wanted to do. Please, somebody, just make a Titans movie.

WXL: GL fan to GL fan, what do you think is the number one problem with the movie? Don’t say the costume- that’s a cop-out answer for a cosplayer!

VEIDT.COM: Number one problem? Radical over-reliance on ugly CG, and the costume is part of that, but so are the uninspired designs for Oa, Kilowog Potatohead, Parallax, and so many other elements.

But even if you somehow fixed all that, you still have the choice of Hector Hammond as a villain, the charisma vacuum that is Peter Sarsgaard, casting Blake Lively in a role that screamed out for Eva Green, the implausibility of Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, and Sarsgaard as a peer group with a long history, things like the GL oath and Kilowog saying,”Poozer”, which read fine on a comic page, but should probably never be spoken aloud in a film. Why was Tim Robbins in this movie? Bland music that made no impression. Also, no Arisia and no fleeting glimpse of Ferris as her future alter ego.

What it did right is a much shorter list: Ryan Reynolds wasn’t bad casting; at least someone thought to start hinting at a larger shared universe by bringing in Amanda Waller; and Mark Strong was pretty good. Happy we got to see him in Sinestro Corps mode for a few seconds.

GO VISIT VEIDT.COM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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As its very essence, democracy is institutionalized civil war. This doesn’t simply apply to political states, but to wherever democracy flourishes and spirited debate ensues. Contesting for authenticity, for sovereignty, for status among the masses- this quest to be deemed legitimate by the standards of the arena compels the democratic imperative. Comic books are one of the most democratic artistic fields, largely because of its ties to the capitalist system. People buy more Animal Man than Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. so Frankenstein is cancelled and Animal Man lives on. Every comic book convention is a market research orgy for publishers. Consumers voluntarily mail, email, and blog their votes/marketing information to allow the producers easy access to their opinions. The democratic elements on the production side are quite similar to rap music- you don’t need much more than a pencil and some paper to get started. Comics, like political democracies, have established seats of power, factions, propaganda departments, dirty tricks, and giant fucking egos. Here I’d like to touch on a comic book icon that reminds me a little bit of the recording artist Prince, Alan Moore.

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Certain pop culture figures and moments in their public life can stay with you. Many of my first impressions of celebrity came from the actions of Prince Rogers Nelson a.k.a. Prince. I can clearly remember watching Weird Al Yankovic as a young child and hearing him explain that Prince refused to let me parody his songs, which may have been the first time I ever heard of Prince. One of the favorite Prince stories is the bit about how he demanded youtube remove a fan-shot recording of a live performance of Radiohead’s “Creep” that he had performed at Coachella and Thom Yorke, hearing of this, defended the fan and told youtube to unblock the recordings. Whatever your opinion of Prince, you must admit that a central component to his public persona is active paranoia regarding his music and his money. You could hate Prince for it and consider him a mega-crybaby,  but he deserves credit for committing to his own insanity.

With the release of the TPBs of the recent Before Watchmen series approaching, I’ve been thinking about comic book icon Alan Moore. Many consider Moore to be the greatest comic book writer of all time. Is it wise to criticize this legend so early in my foray into the medium? Well, it worked for Grant Morrisson. My problem is not so much with Moore’s work, which I really enjoy, but with his personality and contradictions in it as it relates to how his work is used.

Moore has been vocal in his protests of the film adaptation of Watchmen and the Before Watchmen series. He was also pretty vocal about the film adaptations of V for Vendetta and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I sympathize with his commitment to the characters he “created.” Many fans align themselves loyally and somewhat blindly with Moore. Regarding the films, a lot of material was cut, changed,and thematically distorted. Of the three films, Watchmen is by far the most loyal to the source material, but Moore and fans alike have grumbled loudly about the film. I really enjoyed the V for Vendetta and Watchmen films and generally think it’s great when artists try to interpret other artists’ work- like Prince covering Radiohead’s “Creep,” for example. I enjoy mash-ups, film adaptations, fan art, plays, homages, cosplay, and other instances where people contribute the larger essence of a work, giving it new life and killing the author is Barthesian fashion. In this way, I’m like Voltaire and would die for Jessica Simpson’s right to slaughter Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ ” because art progresses with mistakes and the freedom to make them, good with the bad, bad with the good, equality with your neighbor and enemy alike and all that.

Adaptations are one thing. The Before Watchmen prequels are something else entirely because they’re not recreating Moore’s narrative in a parallel medium, but adding to Moore’s narrative in the same medium. Of course, they only add to the narrative if the reader allows it or enough readers allow it to justify the prequels entering the public perception of what Watchmen as a sequential art narrative entails, what constitutes its entirety. As an artist, I can understand how Moore feels threatened. It’s like Nickelback saying they want to add a few verses to “Stairway to Heaven,” but not as frightening. (That Nickelback thing might actually offend the gods in the volcano in my attempt to use hyperbole- I’m just trying to take the concept to its absurd conclusion, so forgive me.) Moore and fans also see the Before Watchmen series for what it is at its essence, a capitalist enterprise. Alan Moore is really mad, but the co-creator of Watchmen Dave Gibbons has given the project his blessing, which only complicates the validity of Moore’s assertion that DC Comics should not have pursued Before Watchmen.

What is Moore’s problem? Is it that he doesn’t like a comic book character being written by someone other than the creator? That would be absurd. Moore wrote Superman comics and he didn’t create Superman. Moore built his reputation on his run on Swamp Thing, which is a character created by Len Wein, the editor of the original Watchmen series and writer for the Ozymandias storyline of the Before Watchmen series. The greatest flaw of this argument lies in the original conception of Watchmen to be based on characters from Charlton Comics that Moore didn’t create, but also in the premise of Moore’s other acclaimed serieses League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Marvelman, From Hell, and Lost GirlsLOEG being the guiltiest party by featuring nearly two hundred characters that Moore did not create. Alan Moore has taken broad strokes with character he didn’t create, such broad and extreme strokes as shooting them, paralyzing, and taking naked photographs of them with the intent of driving their father insane. Moore has demonstrated a fondness for sexualizing, often violently, characters he didn’t create as seen graphically in LOEG and Lost Girls. A somewhat simplistic reading of LOEG will see it as merely common sexual fantasies manifested through the actions of Mina Murray- her sexual liberation through sexual assault at the hands of Dracula, the Invisible Man, and many others, her eternal youth, her bisexuality, a lover who can change genders (Orlando), the affections of multiple monsters, free love, incest (Quartmainn’s reincarnations), and on and on. The text itself is a sexual act and Lost Girls? That book’s even dirtier than LOEG, so if Alan Moore can take such sexual liberties with beloved characters from children’s stories, why should he be so upset by a couple of prequels for one twelve-issue graphic novel?

Is Moore’s problem with the capitalist enterprise of milking a story past its expiration date for financial reward? Isn’t that what comic books are all about? Such a large component of comics is the recurrence of characters, which is distinctly not a Nietzschean eternal recurrence but rather a more broad exponentially eternal recurrence as evidenced by the ever-expanding continuity organism that thrives on disruptions like the New 52 or Ultimates. Also, I love What If and Elseworlds imprints. In the case of Moore, didn’t he just release the LOEG: Century and Nemo books to cash in on the previous success of LOEG? Look at how those books were sold, Century is sold as three skinny books 1910, 1969, and 2009 even though they should be sold as a single graphic novel. Nemo has been released in hardcover despite being a mere 56 pages- $14.95 for 56 pages? Seriously? On this point, I’ll admit I’ve enjoyed every bit of LOEG and regard the additional material as worthwhile, but its nowhere near as good as the original first two volumes of the series, which probably stand better independent of the Black Dossier, the Century books, and Nemo. Mary Poppins might be worth it though.

I haven’t read Before Watchmen as I don’t read single issues and am waiting for the trades to come out. I’ve heard good things from people who read them and bad things, mostly from people who haven’t read them. I’m excited by the creative teams that worked on them- Darwyn Cooke, Amanda Conner, Jae Lee, Brian Azzarello, et al. are some of the most talented people working in comics. Stuff like Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski, who wrote the Nite Owl storyline of Before Watchmen, is one of my favorite Superman storylines and the current Wonder Woman is one of the best titles being published, written by Brian Azzarello, who wrote the Comedian storyline of Before Watchmen. I’ll wait to see the final product before I judge and I’ll be amused and impressed, but not swayed, by Alan Moore’s commitment to his creations, despite obvious contradictions in his behavior- same with Prince.

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