Tuesday, August 28, 2007


The ten year period that, as if reluctant to die outmoded in its bed, leaped to a spectacular death in October, 1929, began about the time of the May Day riots in 1919. When the police rode down the demobilized country boys gaping at the orators in Madison Square, it was a sort of measure bound to alienate the more intelligent young men from the prevailing order. We didn't remember anything about the Bill of Rights until Mencken began plugging it, but we did know that such tyranny belonged in the jittery little countries of South Europe. If goose-livered businessmen had this effect on the government, then maybe we had gone to war for J.P. Morgan's loans afterall.

But, because we were tired of Great Causes, there was no more than a short outbreak of moral indignation, typified by Dos Passos' book, Three Soliders. Presently we began to have slices of the national cake and our idealism only flared up when the newspapers made melodrama out of stories such as Harding and the Ohio Gang or Sacco and Vanzetti. The events of 1919 left us cynical rather than revolutionary, in spite of the fact that now we are all rummaging around in our trunks wondering where in the hell we left the liberty cap-- "I KNOW I had it..."-- and the moujik blouse.

It was characteristic of the Jazz Age that it had no interest in politics at all.

--F. Scott Fitgerald, from Echoes Of The Jazz Age (Nov. 1931), from his book, THE CRACK-UP.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


A recent Ranxerox ramp-up, drawn while on the tail-end of Batman Year 100.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Pablo Picasso's preserved child drawings are now housed at the Musee Picasso in Barcelona, and are available for view upon appointment. Above is one he did in 1893 (aged 12), which we could arguably classify as yet another example of "proto-comics".

In this picture, as Natasha Staller points of in her book A SUM OF DESTRUCTIONS, the young Picasso made a series of sequential images-- his version of a then-popular comic-strip-like format known as an 'aleluya'. The drawing dramatizes the cutting in two of a lion's body, and demonstrates how the act of drawing could fragment and alter objects protrayed.

The bottom-half of the page features a scene depicting a religious procession, with 'imagenes' of a Christ and Virgin. Above this, in this seemingly-unreated sequence moving backwards, right to left, bottom to top-- a hero pulls open a drawer, only to be terrified by an enormous lion's head popping out of the second image. He retaliates in the third, by slicing the lion (as a bowler-hatted gent in the top area pisses obliviously into a corner). In the next sketch, the lion tumbles downward as it splits in two, the front and back halves apparently still alive. In the last, the formerly threatening lion's body parts are reduced to rugs-- to trophies-- upon which women dance, as the hero lords over the scene. Pablo numbered only two of the scenes, the last two of mastery and triumph, with a giant 5 over the hero's head. ('Aleluyas' --like comic strips-- themselves are divided: many parts, taken together, comprising a whole).

--A SUM OF DESTRUCTIONS: PICASSO'S CULTURES & THE CREATION OF CUBISM, by Natasha Staller, Yale University Press, 2001.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


"We were on sabbatical, except the kids, who went to the local school and got a splendid education and a Cockney accent. We lived in a drab old North London borough called Islington, long rows of high houses like dirty toffees all stuck together staring at the row of dirty toffees opposite. By the time we left, we found these street very beautiful, and inhaled the exhaust gas of a double-decker red London bus deeply, like sea air. This was essentially a result of the kindliness of the English (including Pakistani Indian Greek Italian, etc.) among whom we lived in Islington. It was the Spirit we were breathing in. London air causes causes asthma in many, but it is worth it. The English are slightly more civilized than anyone else has yet been. Also England is a good country for introverts; they have a place in society for the introvert, which the United States does not. In fact there is a place in London for everything; you can find what you want there, from organized diobolical perversity a la Baron Charlus, to the kinds of lollipops that change color as you proceed inwards...

You know, London buses have 2 storeys with a sort of half-circular staircase, smoking allowed on the top deck-- in winter, between Woodbines & Bronchitis, it's like an advanced T.B. Ward crossed with a Sauna Bath on fire, all lurching through dark Dickensian alleys jammed with Minicars and Miniskirts. Well, you never get up these stairs before the bus plunges off again, so the conductor/tress shouts, 'Eol pridi daeneow!' or 'Eoldon toit luv!'-- or, if West Indian, sings out in a picaresque native dialect (English), 'Hold on pretty tight now!' And if you don't, you've had it. There's no door."

--Ursula Le Guin, from a 1968 letter to Harlan Ellison, as quoted in Ellison's introduction to her story "The Word For World Is Forest", from his anthology of science fiction stories, AGAIN DANGEROUS VISIONS. Doubleday & Co., 1972. He calls her, "the most elegant writer in the science fiction world."

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


George Lucas' hit movie Star Wars came out that year (1977). The film was shocking to me, for all the similarities between it and my father's book, Dune. Both featured an evil galactic empire, a desolate desert planet, hooded natives, strong religious elements, and a messianic hero with an aged mentor. Star Wars' Princess Leah had a name with a haunting similarity to Dune's Lady Alia of the noble house Atreides. The movie also had spice mines and a Dune Sea.

I phoned my father and said, "You better see it. The similarities are unbelievable."

When Dad saw the movie, he picked out sixteen points of what he called "absolute identity" between his book and the movie, enough to make him livid. He thought he saw the ideas of other science ficiton writers on the screen as well, including those of Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Ted Sturgeon, Barry Malzberg, and Jerry Pournelle.

Still, Frank Herbert tried to be upbeat. He and the other science fiction writers who thought they saw their work in Lucas' movie formed a loose organization that my father called, with his tongue firmly placed in his cheek, the We're Too Big To Sue George Lucas Society. Through humor, dad tried to mask the pain.

--Brian Herbert, from his biography of Frank Herbert, "Dreamer Of Dune".

Monday, August 6, 2007


Lee Hazlewood, a singer and songwriter best known for writing and producing "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" for Nancy Sinatra, has died. He was 78.

Barton Lee Hazlewood died at his home in Henderson of kidney cancer on Saturday evening, the Clark County coroner's office said.

Hazlewood was most famous for his work with the daughter of Frank Sinatra, including writing and producing such hits as "Sugartown" and "Some Velvet Morning." He also produced "Something Stupid," a duet Nancy recorded with her father in 1967.

He also produced for Duane Eddy and Gram Parsons, and performed on a number of solo albums and with Nancy Sinatra in three "Nancy & Lee" albums.

Hazlewood was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2005 and released his final album, "Cake or Death" in 2006.

He was survived by his third wife, Jeane, his son Mark and daughters Debbie and Samantha.

Friday, August 3, 2007


I'm in Hollywood. I'm sitting at a gorgeous old hotel bar where Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart used to drink. I'm sipping a twelve dollar Belevedere/rocks, listening to the bartender tell me about some of the hotel's secrets-- they built a secret table in the back of the place for when couples like Brad and Angelina want to come for a fabulous steak dinner and some quiet candlelight. The place looks like an unused set from Citizen Kane--all faded Spanish castle majesty shot through with WiFi and LED lamps. Outside and down the street, a line forms in the heat. It snakes around the block. It's a line waiting to get into some film premiere. Next to the theater is a wax museum full of life-sized replicas of famous dead movie stars--Elvis, Marilyn, Brando, etc.

Meanwhile, in the back of the hotel, under palm trees and fading afternoon sunlight, nearly naked women swim in the pool while Secret Machines, Interpol, Led Zeppelin, Blondie, and other bands are piped in over the sound system. It feels good. Jose Villarrubia comes over, we drink a drink out there. Something big and alive is twilling and croaking in one of the trees as we pass under it, miniature jungle sounds in a tree in Hollywood. Everything here seems to refer to movies--my hotel room looks like the set for the last two minutes of 2001, but in dark wood, without an illuminated floor. There is a strange glass sphere of a lamp on the table which looks like a prop for some sci-fi film which I can't figure out how to work. It looks like it shouldn't be invented for another ten years or so.

The sun sets. A long ride in the back of somebody's sports car and we're downtown. Good food. One of the guys has a margarita and a big slab of bread pudding for dinner. Later we go up to this guy's loft-- a huge 2000 square foot place, nearly empty except for a couch in front of a huge flatscreen TV and a Wii gamestation. It turns out the guy photographs sex toys for some company, retouches them and assembles the photos for the mail order sex toy catalogue, that's his day job.

I hear a weird story--this guy, two weeks back, he shoots a family portrait for some film producer, for the producer's mom. In the family portrait we get the producer and the wife and the two or three kids-- only problem is, the kids are all full grown and won't/can't come home. One's in Africa, the other one's in wherever. So this film guy gets photos of the kids and has the sex toy photographer superimpose the kids back into the photo, as if they were always there to begin with. Perfect simulation.

"So?" I ask, "Do you tell the old lady?"

"Are you kidding?" he says, annoyed.

So the film producer gets a fake family portrait for his mother, artifically assembled by the guy who shoots pictures of sex toys for a living. The film producer's mother gets the portrait and is pleased to have a picture of her happy family on the wall.