Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Greetings, friends.  'Tis the season of the ghoulish and macabre.  Which is to say, for most of us, our favorite holiday.  The veil between worlds is at its thinnest in the time of Samhain.  Restless spirits wander the world, ready to make mischief and play tricks.  And ain't that a treat?

I've always enjoyed the transgressive holidays, which mostly means Carnival and Halloween -- those times of the year roughly coinciding with the equinox when we celebrate excess and our darker drives.  The globe shifts on its axis and it seems like we are willing to contemplate less ordered, less constrained ways of being.  Ignore these seasons at your peril.  At the very least, we all need an opportunity to blow off a little dark steam. 

In Carbondale, the university used to shut down the dorms and send the students home for Halloween.  We have a bit of a reputation for riots.  That's going a bit far, to be sure, but there is always something in the air.  Maybe when you put on a mask you feel like you can get away with anything.  Maybe we all crave a little chaos.  Anarchy rules, with most of us preferring Aleister Crowley's abbreviated version of the Witch's Rede:  "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."  The full Wiccan Rede comes with a bit of a caveat:  "These Eight words the Rede fulfill: An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will."  Something worth remembering when the spirits of the night encourage you to throw a brick through a storefront window.  Or worse.

I prefer to let the call to transgress manifest in art.  Costume parties are a fun opportunity to build a concept onto my body.  Cards and posters are a fun opportunity to play comic arts.  We used to decorate our house, but have let the workload eclipse this opportunity for seasonal play.  Still, every now and again, I hang a Blair Witch cluster of sticks and bones in a tree around town -- the simplest decorations often being the creepiest.

It's a beautiful fall weekend, folks.  Don't let this day and night pass you by.  Carve a pumpkin.  Celebrate the harvest.  Light a bonfire (but be sure to tend it).  Play dress up.  Play a gentle prank.  Dance skyclad in the moonlight.  And when the devout hypocrites accuse you of inviting Satan into your heart, remind them that most of these rituals are about tricking him into passing you by.  He prefers the shriveled hearts of those who forgot the divine charge to "judge not lest ye be judged."    

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More Cartoons and an Origin Story

The unfortunate combination of obligation and procrastination is impacting my ability to keep up with the blogging, so it looks like another week of delving into the sketchbook for comic art.  Meh.  That's not cheating, right?  That's just its own form of sharing.

And in the spirit of sharing, I thought I would respond publicly to a private question from a friend who follows my blog.  "Why Bungy Notes?" she asked me.  No big mystery, there.  "Bungy" (with or without accompanying digits) has been my profile name of choice on the internet for almost two decades now.  Way back in 1992, when most interactions were text based and we used to meet strangers in "tallkers" and "bbs," I chose Bungy as my moniker.  Up until sometime in 2000, it was my secret identity.  When I was doing stuff on line and didn't want my name attached to those activities, I was "Bungy."

But why Bungy?  Back in those early days of the net, before pic and video sharing were so easy, there were plenty of us inspired by the writings of William Gibson and other cyber-punk authors to imagine the Internet as a virtual site where you could reinvent yourself.  Moreover, that reinvention need not be tied to reality; the only limits were those of bandwidth and imagination.  I used to go to a purely text-based gay talker and engage in cyber-sex with strangers who may or may not have been men on the other end of the line.  At that time, there was a pretty even split between those men who wanted to hook up IRL and those who just wanted to play on-line.  There was a middle crowd eager to move to phone chats, but I pretty much fell into the latter group.

There were other differences as well.  One of them involved those who were tied to reality and those of us who were not.  Again, I fit into the latter group.  Long before Second Life came on the scene, there were plenty of us involved in collaborative fantasies typed out in textual format.  And some of us, recognizing that this was fantasy, chose a more dream-like and surreal approach to our fantasies.  "Bungy" was a misspelling of "bungee" and references both my desire for extreme experiences (like the extreme sport of bungee jumping) and my desire for flexibility in an on-line identity.  Even at that time, most gay men greeted each other in the fantasy world of on-line encounters with a request for "stats."  I often gave impossible stats for my height, weight, and genitalia proportions.  I could bend in impossible ways.  I was stretchy, expandable, and quite very odd.  And therein arose my subtitle: "Be flexible.  Be strange."

If video killed the radio star, I think pics and vids killed the surreal on-line chatrooms.  Oh sure, there's the visual buffet of Second Life.  I tried that for a while.  But I found the menu options somewhat limiting -- I had to choose my strangeness out of a box.  I either had to know how to code it myself or work from a bricolage of someone else's fantasy materials.  And I was kind of offended by how the whole Second Life experience was invested (literally) in creating a real economy with Linden Dollars.  Plus, all those graphics tended to jam people's systems.  It was too odd (and not in the good way) to see so many prepackaged avatars standing in a crowd and still using the old talker/chat-room conventions to spin out fantasies.

Anyway, "Bungy" remains an on-line name for me.  It is who I am on-line and who I have been for coming on two decades.  I still haven't actually bungee jumped, but that is something that remains on my bucket list.  One day.  And for the record, in my head I hear the "g" as soft.  I am aware that it can be pronounced with a hard "g" and be an adjective for something that smells bad.  That amuses me, since so far smell is one sense we haven't added to the virtual experience.  I also recently learned that "bungy" is a derogatory term for a man from Bangladesh.  Who knew? 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Some Cartoons

In digging around for a blog topic this week, I thought it might be fun to share some cartooning from my sketchbooks.  These are scans without any real digital clean-up.  If they seem small on this page, click on the image for a larger view.

First, let me be perfectly clear: I am not a professional visual artist or cartoonist.  My professional training is in communication.  And while I have some undergraduate design courses under my belt and a long standing hobby of drawing and painting, this is not where I earn a living.  I starting teaching courses in Visual Rhetoric several years ago, and a favorite unit in that class is on cartoons (particularly political cartoons).  Part of my training is also in Performance Studies, which suggests that doing is one of the best ways of learning.  So, I took a hand at making cartoons.  They may look simple, but they are harder than they appear.  Kind of like haiku, that way. 

I also share a certain amount of frustration with the scholarly literature of visual rhetoric.  Many of these folks do not produce visual messages (of cartoons or other varieties).  Not that critics have to be practitioners, but I think there is a great value from actually doing work in the phenomenon you choose to theorize/criticize.  My admiration for editorial cartoonists went up exponentially when I tried to make a political cartoon.  In addition to the craft of line-art, there is an economy of expression in the one-liner.  It ain't easy, and I appreciate these artists' craft because, in part, they have to make it look easy.  In my own teaching and scholarship (as well as my performance work), I learn so much from the doing, and I have learned so much from doing cartoons.

So I admit, with some pride in the fact, that I am an amateur.  French cultural theorist Roland Barthes similarly claimed the status of amateur and defined it thus:  "The Amateur engages in painting, music, sport, science, without the spirit of mastery or competition[...] he establishes himself graciously (for nothing) in the signifier: in the immediately definitive substance of music, of painting[...] he is – he will be perhaps – the counter-bourgeois artist" [Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes, 2].  My interest in comics and cartoons is, as the root of "amateur" suggests, in my love for them.  I am happy to make them as an act of exploration and appreciation.  I am happy to share them in a non-competitive, non-commercial spirit. 

The images on this page are from my sketchbooks.  Most are from the last two years.  They are some of the better pages where I think I hit on a message and an image with the cartoonist's economy of expression.  Believe me, they are surrounded by pages and pages of less successful attempts.

I am currently cartooning for the collaborative blog, Black Magpie Theory; you can find some of my attempts at political caricature and commentary over there.  And of course, I also create original art comics for this blog, experimental comics, poemicstrip, and occasionally Abstract Comics.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Famous Album Covers

"These initiation rites have been monetized.  My social network ate your Web 2.0.  Hang pierced from a tree and call it a film festival.  Cunning like a conservative news network.  Your dreams are in violation of international copyright laws.  You will be persecuted.  Upgrade now or perish.  I used to read books; now I read faces.  I have an ambient awareness of birdsong.  He painfully pricked his skin with pixels.  Practice safe file transfer protocol.  Silence equals relief."

In the course of sharing digital artwork here and at other blogs, I caught the attention of and was invited to contribute to the blog, "Famous Album Covers."  I love the concept of this site: album covers of fictional bands.  That is, using the format of album (now CD) covers as an inspiration for producing art. 

The blog includes the following opening description of its purpose:
Perhaps the greatest art movement in America is the series of album covers generated from the 1960s forward. Perhaps it isn't. Here it is though. Some of the most famous album covers you have never seen.

For the art historians out there, yes, Pop Art has British beginnings. And no, I'm not going to look beyond the technology of the phonograph to discover that the Mesopotamians had the first album cover. Sorry.

Can't a guy get a word in edgewise? 
Lately, when I post to the blog, I like to include a playlist with the album, the list of song titles and running times offering its own kind of poetry and an interesting interaction of words with image.  For example:

01 Goony (3:15)
02 Alpha OMG (2:17)
03 Nixon's Confession (18:30)
04 Pay to Pray (4:22)
05 My Tarnished Agony (2:37)
06 Error Message 401 (3:20)
07 Why Were We Thinking? (2:54)
08 Partial Funding (1:10)
09 You Gum My Spirit (5:02)
10 Mother Whore (2:06)
11 My Own Private Taliban (3:32)

01 Sine Qua Non (3:17)
02 Labial Fold  (4:13)
03 STFU (2:37)
04 My Own Private Eye To Hoe (3:32)
05 Ball Sweat and Pantyhose (3:23)
06 Send In The Clowns (4:13)
07 Dead And Buried (3:23)
08 Outrageous Fortune (5:06)
09 Sylvan (3:12)
10 For Ani (5:12)
11 Clown Shoes (2:24)
12 Vibrate (3:47)
13 Brick By Brick (4:13)
14 Title Wave (2:17)

01 My Mom Just Wants Her Bomb Back (3:17)
02 Daughton Park (2:20)
03 Claws In Them Paws (3:15)
04 Shit Eating Grin (1:35)
05 No Mushrooms (6:23)
06 There But For The Grace of God (5:10)
07 The Secret Garden (3:13)
08 Ruthie's Request (1:54)
09 Tan Your Hide (4:20)
10 Crisis Hotline (7:33)
11 Walk With Me (3:15)
12 Call Your Father (2:27)
13 Labor Is For Life (6:11)
14 Daughton Park (acoustic) (2:25)

And then sometimes, I provide no playlist:

My partner makes music on his computer.  In the last several years, I have followed my visual sensibilities in the tools and networking possibilities offered by this increasingly digitized world.  He has pursued his considerable sound sensibilities.  In all of this, we share an interest in intermedia and the DIY ethic -- the potential of new media to open up creative possibilities and cultural production.  We can get a bit utopian in all that, if we are not careful:  Viva la remix society.  Take back the systems of production.  Free the imagination from the prepackaged and prefigured.  Explore together the unknown territories of truly free expression. 

Maybe "Famous Album Covers" contributes to that dream.  Maybe it just shows how we are all tied to the forms we grew up with.  It's a complicated world.  But the important thing is that we are all producing and letting our creative sensibilities flourish. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"It Bleeds, It Won't Be Contained"

So, I spent my Saturday making a comic as part of the "24 Pages in 24 Hours" create a comic project.  It might have been an indulgent use of a Saturday, but I had fun doing it.  Well, mostly.  About halfway through the afternoon, I really wanted to quit.  Even this morning, my shoulders are tense and my back is sore.  But then, that could be more a result of struggling to upload the work to Scribd this morning.  Grrr.  Stupid, dumb internet connection!

As the note at the end of the comic states, I made this comic in a 24 hour period from 8am Sat (10/2/2010) to 8 am this morning.  I did use, in the composition, some scans from my sketchbook and some clips I've digitally created before, but the concept and the composition (as well as the digital clean-up) happened all yesterday.  I also did a fair amount of fresh drawing yesterday (hands very sore!).  The comic is a (possibly problematic) mix of poemics, cartooning, and some abstract comics.  Mostly, though, I just tried to stay in motion and produce the work in the time allotted. 


It Bleeds, It Won't Be Contained                                                                   

Here is a link to the comic in case the embed breaks (as they tend to do!).