Last month I asked my friends to write about books they loved (you can read all the essays here). This month, I invited them to write about their favorite graphic novels, and they selected some excellent titles. I hope you enjoy them! (Read all the Great Graphic Novel essays here.) -- Mark
My first experience of what I would call a graphic novel was this strange hardcover book I found when I was a kid on a sleepover. I couldn't sleep because I was allergic to the cats that kept climbing on top of me in the bed, so I went into the living room and started looking at their books. And I found a volume like nothing I had ever seen: an old, hardcover book with no words. It was the 1929 edition of a "novel in woodcuts" called Gods' Man, by Lynd Ward.
At first I thought it was a collection of pictures, until I began at the beginning and realized it was meant to be a story. I don't remember the plot so very well -- something about an artist fighting against internal, external, and metaphysical obstacles. But it impacted me in the epic way some other visual work of the early 1900's hit me, such as Metropolis or the big Napoleon movie. Or even some sort of Kurt Weill opera. Or Ibsen's Peer Gynt.
It's a hundred or so prints in thick black and white, and I didn't consider it a comic at the time -- just some strange artifact of an art form that no one else pursued. Read the rest
This is one in a series of essays about enthralling books. I asked my friends and colleagues to recommend a book that took over their life. I told them the book didn't have to be a literary masterpiece. The only thing that mattered was that the book captivated them and carried them into the world within its pages, making them ignore the world around them. I asked: "Did you shirk responsibilities so you could read it? Did you call in sick? Did you read it until dawn? That's the book I want you to tell us about!" See all the essays in the Enthralling Book series here. -- Mark
The book that most enthralled me -- or at least first enthralled me on the level you're talking about -- was Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. I was in college, on my way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to direct my friend Walter Kirn's play "Soft White Kids in Leather," loosely based on Warhol's Factory. Although I had read up on a lot of the New York scene of that era, it wasn't until I found Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (in the mass-market paperback edition in one of those used book bins) that I realized I had finally found someone who could not only express the experience of the group trip, but could also articulate the dynamics and ideology of the psychedelic commune. (Yes, Kesey and the Dead were the West Coast, tie-dyed counterpart to the black turtleneck culture of Warhol and Leary. Read the rest
Everyone seems to have A.D.D. these days. (In case you’ve been too distracted by your Twitter feed to remember, A.D.D. stands for Attention Deficit Disorder -- the inability to focus on any one thing for too long, the urge to do nine things at once, and the hyper, constantly shifting, unsettled feeling that goes along with it.)
Apparently, it’s an epidemic -- particularly among boys, and especially among those who love video games. And so video games are now blamed for destroying their brains, and their capacity to become productive members of society.
But, to me anyway, something never felt right about this line of reasoning. Even if playing video games and answering txt messages shortens the attention span, what if it broadens the attention range? What if the downsides of an A.D.D. approach to life were actually offset by some other, still unidentified advantage? Or in computer programmer’s parlance, what if A.D.D. weren’t a bug, but a feature?
In fact, this whole Attention Deficit craze really only began in the late '90s, a few years after the Internet business magazines unanimously declared we were living in something called an “attention economy.” The idea was that the Internet is essentially limitless in its ability to hold content. The only limiting factor on how much money media companies can make off us in an age of infinite bandwidth is human attention itself.
They came up with a new metric, “eyeball hours,” to describe the amount of time they could keep someone’s attention glued to the screen. Read the rest
I'm done with my guest posting this weekend, and very happy for the opportunity to engage with everyone from this side of the blog. I'm still a concerned that too many people here have gotten the wrong idea about what I'm hoping to accomplish with my new book
. Something about being told to "Program or Be Programmed" has come off as alarmist or negative, which is not my intent.
I do think most people in a digital age would be better off with some knowledge of programming, or at least some awareness that it exists: that there are many ways of doing things, and that the systems we use have been created by people and institutions with their own agendas. Money and banking are great examples of systems that look like they're just here, but were actually carefully devised long ago to serve the agendas of people other than most of us. (There used to be many other forms of money that lived alongside central currency - just as we might someday be able to say there were other kinds of operating systems that lived right alongside Google's iPad.)
So as a parting and aggregating effort to make the positive and ultimately Boingish point about the possibilities for mutation offered by a digital technology to the kind of smart and open society BoingBoing explicitly supports, here's a link to another excerpt from the book, posted over at Reality Sandwich
It has been a pleasure and challenge to write for and engage with you. Read the rest
This particularly hideous website
is nonetheless a gold mine for designers and old TV heads, claiming to have every television logo ever made. Scrolling through is at once an education in the evolution of screen logo design, a non-linear tour through television history, and a strangely satisfying stimulation of visual memory circuits. Read the rest
If we are to believe the latest conclusions of Tony Wright
(speaking above in a National Geographic documentary) the left brain hemisphere has not simply dominated a more passive right; rather, over time, it has changed our neurochemistry and neural structures to support its own ascent. In his new book, Left in the Dark
, Wright argues that "humanity is suffering from species-wide brain damage" and this damage is the "root cause of our obvious insanity."
According to current thinking cerebral dominance is the product of adaptive selection and has resulted in one side of our brain (the left) acquiring specialist abilities such as speech and rational or conceptual thinking. With these 'advanced' skills the left hemisphere has come to dominate our thinking, behaviour and psychology. In effect our mind and sense of self or who we think we are is primarily a product of the left side of our brain. Of course the conclusion that our left hemisphere has specialised and advanced abilities is, by definition, a conclusion reached by our left hemisphere!
Lets suppose just for a minute that our left hemisphere is a hormonally retarded, structurally damaged, perceptually limited and psychologically deluded version of our right hemisphere and its rise to dominance was driven by fear and the need to maintain a sense of control due to its increasing damage. In effect cerebral dominance is a symptom of a neurodegenerative condition rather than an advanced adaptive trait.
On the one hand, this feels a bit like a rehashing of decades-old complaints about left-brain, dominator culture memes wiping out the goddess herself. Read the rest
Remember the recently degraded Texas textbook standards? The ones requiring the removal of left-leaning historical figures like Thurgood Marshall, while inserting important institutions such as the Heritage Foundation, the National Rifle Association. Or that America be referred to as a "republic" rather than a "democracy" - lest kids learn to like the word democrat?
Well, Thomas Gokey of Syracuse University wants to fight back against this top-down dismantling of education with some bottom-up restoration of the historical record. He's organizing a wikibook called A Supplement to the Texas U.S. History Textbook
in the hope of developing "a textbook written from a different perspective" (like, what really happened, without blacks and Jews and lefties removed). From our email exchange:
It is meant to be used in the classroom and written by people all over the world, including Texas middle and high school students themselves. An 11th grade social studies class in Ohio is already writing their own textbook, and I think this is a great way to avoid be written out of history.
I think that our wiki textbook can be more faithful and be a better read and be a much better educational tool because it involves the students themselves in the messy task of historical research. If students can create their own textbook and in the process enter into debates in real time with historians and amateur history buffs it will demystify the process of historical research. I want to get students to really confront critically the way a history gets produced. Read the rest
Capitalizing on the bad vibes circulating on release of Facebook-bashing The Social Network social networking competitor The Fridge has come up with a poster campaign based on those of the Hollywood pic.
While The Fridge's claim of a totally private network is limited, of course, by the discretion of any particular group's membership, they certainly know how to enjoy a media moment.
Read the rest
Robert Anton Wilson and his crew set up an online academy for him to teach James Joyce and other subjects to those of us who thrived off his learning and insights. Before he died, he began to invite others to teach courses through the Maybe Logic Academy
, and the site has lived on.
I was honored to be asked to teach a course based on my new book
. It goes for ten weeks, and begins October 11. I'll be donating my proceeds to archive.org
. Here's the pitch.
Ten weeks of study and dialogue, ten commands for a digital age. We continue to accept new technologies into our lives with little or no understanding of how these devices work and work on us. We do not know how to program our computers, nor do we care. We spend much more time and energy trying to figure out how to use them to program one another, instead. And this is a potentially grave mistake.
Just as the invention of text utterly transformed human society, disconnecting us from much of what we held sacred, our migration to the digital realm will also require a new template for maintaining our humanity. In this course, Rushkoff shares the biases of digital media, and what that means for how we should use them.
The course will be organized along the ten main biases of digital media - time, distance, scale, choice, complexity, identity, social, fact, sharing, and purpose - exploring how digital media is tilted towards one or the other end of each spectrum. Read the rest
Dan Goldman, who hit the comics scene running with a debut graphic novel hit Shooting Wars, has blossomed into one of the industry's most innovative artists and self-publishers. Somehow, he got Tor Books to pay him for the work, and then release the entirety of his new graphic novel, Red Light Properties, on their website for free to all. If this is where publishing is going, count me in.
It's a fine and fun connected series of horror stories that utilize both traditional panels and 3D architectural rendering. While the interface might still benefit from some additional iterations, it does put control over the timing of the reading experience in the user's hands - something print comics do naturally, but digital ones have been slow to recreate or improve upon.
Relocated from New York to Brazil where he wrote and drew this series, Goldman has also had the time and headspace to work out a narrative that functions on more than a few levels at once. This book represents an emerging comics talent coming into full possession of his storytelling powers.
I'm using the framework of ghost stories set in a sunny climate and a depressed economy to speak about the membrane between the world of the living and the dead, the memories of places after we've gone, and the roots of family during difficult times. The firm's owners, Jude Tobin and his soon-to-be-ex-wife Cecilia, struggle to keep their own mortgage paid, their electricity on and their young son provided for while the remains of the real estate market smolders around them. Read the rest
The best part about watching documentaries in a movie theater is who you get to see them with. Docs, especially about esoteric subjects, bring together the greatest and weirdest people - people who should know each other, anyway. I mean, remember the people you met at that Theremin documentary? Or at anything about Tesla?
My guess is that the following move theater screenings of the new Grant Morrison documentary DVD, Talking with Gods, will be nights to remember. Morrison is considerably weirder than the vast majority of his comics readers probably know - and yes, even weirder than most of the minority know. And filmmaker Patrick Meaney (who interviewed me for the film, too) has just the temperament to engage with a multi-dimensional entity like Morrison.
TALKING WITH GODS examines Morrison's 30-year career and the real-life events that inspired his stories. Featuring extensive interviews with Morrison himself, the film delves into his early days growing up in Scotland, the start of his career in comics, the crazy years of the '90s as his life and his comics became enmeshed, and his recent attempts to turn social darkness and personal troubles into compelling comics. The film also gives insight into his creative process, including a look into his vaunted idea notebooks. Complementing Morrison's own words are interviews with many of his collaborators and colleagues, including Frank Quitely, Warren Ellis, Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez, Mark Waid, Cameron Stewart, Douglas Rushkoff, Frazer Irving, Jill Thompson, Dan DiDio, and more.
Morrison is a storyteller, chaos magician, and kung fu practitioner - but most of all he is a True Believer. Read the rest
My daughter's first video game obsession? Nimblestrong,
an iPhone game that teaches you how to bartend as you select, drag, and time your pours of various drink recipes into appropriate glasses - complete with garnish. All the while, you are encountering strange and exotic patrons as you train to become a hero master bartender.
It's actually one of the better examples of a video game being used to teach a specific skill that I've come across, with a good balance between twitch, recall, and narrative. There's just something deeply compelling - and rewarding - about successfully completing a complex drink and getting high scores from that anime vixen who thought you would screw it up.
The best part is the sound effects, and the particularly retro vidgame score. That, and the fact that my five-year-old now knows how to make 57 drinks. Read the rest
Astra Taylor and Laura Hanna, the filmmakers behind the fabulous documentary Zizek!
have just released a short promotional video that shares the core concepts of my new book Program or Be Programmed.
It was a strange and wonderful experience to be poked and prodded for a couple of weeks as they distilled and then re-distilled what I was saying down to increasingly essential - and visualizable - points. And most gratifying, they did it as a labor of love to promote the ideas - which is about the best complement an author can get. Read the rest
- the guy who brought us Macromedia and the first multimedia authoring tools wants to help post-industrial cities like his own Cleveland re-employ its citizens in a new economy.
Unlike me, however, instead of building business from the ground up, Canter believes that the corporate-employee relationship can be salvaged and revitalized. His answer, Digital City Mechanics
, is dedicated to re-educating workers in basic net skills while re-educating companies in hiring and organization. Given that the former rust belt is now the polymer belt (cellulose water bottles, anyone?) he may just be onto something. If nothing else, I have learned from experience: do not underestimate this man.
The above video was shot on an iPhone at the Open Video Conference, where Marc was hoping to help figure out how to fill in the gaps for open standards in web video production and distribution. Read the rest