• Great Graphic Novels: From Inside, by John Bergin

    GreatgraphicnovelsLast 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

    From Inside, by John Bergin

    I am walking down a tunnel. No, it's the stairwell, the former stairwell. Its skeleton juts with unjoined charcoal ribs. I usually stay upstairs in the place where we used to lie next to each other and breathe.

    Something important drew me down here. I remembered that sometime a message had come from Mark Frauenfelder, from Boing Boing. He wanted me to write about a graphic novel. The details elude me, the memory floats like a tiny grey cloud on the parched desert of my mind. I need a deluge. I have learned, though, to subsist on dew. There is no way to check email any more.

    I push a pile of blackened books around with my burnt Docs, afraid to reach in with my hands. I don't remember when the fire happened. Maybe it is still happening.

    The scorched tomes stir: Joel Peter Witkin's collection of Victorian death portraits, the title dissolved into the plasticky gloss of the book's cover. Marianne Wiggins' John Dollar, its spine worn off years ago. Jane Austen. Richard Kadrey. Colette. James Joyce. Edward Eager. Rumi. Susan Cooper. Lidia Yuknavitch. George Saunders.

    George Saunders! I laugh, picturing the goats in Pastoralia and to laugh is such a good thing, I fish out the book with my hand. The book doesn't burn me. It simply disintegrates.


  • Mind Blowing Movies: Brazil, by Tiffany Lee Brown

    Mm200This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. — Mark

    The Other Side: Brazil, by Tiffany Lee Brown

    Warning: Spoiler alert!

    [Video Link] When I told Boing Boing a few weeks back that I'd write this piece, I hadn't yet sat by my husband's side in the Trauma ICU, wondering whether his mind would stay in the far-off realms of the Other Side, like Sam in the movie Brazil, or whether he would come back to me. Josh was here in this world when I first saw him after his bicycle accident, a duct-like breathing tube emerging from his mouth. His right eye could just barely open, and through it he saw me and our son Gusty. I could tell he knew we were here. I knew he was here. I just knew.

    At the end of Brazil, Michael Palin tortures Sam (Jonathan Pryce) from behind a spectacularly disturbing mask until Robert DeNiro's inimitable terrorist plumber, Tuttle, swoops in with his fellow revolutionaries and rescues Sam. Strange shenanigans follow, and Sam even gets to blow up the hideous, Kafkaesque Ministry of Information buildings. He's then swept away by the object of his romantic obsession, a truck drivin' tough gal, to live in the country in a caravan, complete with goats.

    Except that Sam's living all these rescues in his mind. The final scene shows him staring out from his far-off mind while an evil overlord remarks, "Jack, I think he got away from us." Sam is gone. He hums the familiar tune: "Braziiiiiil, dah dah du du da da du daaaah…" and we cut back to our own realities, shaken and stirred.

    Later on the day of the accident, Josh went away. I knew he wasn't here. I just knew. Then came the CT scan results: as his brain swelled inside his skull, it was bleeding more. I didn't know if he was ever coming back. I whispered in his ear that he was actually in a hammock at the remote beach in Oaxaca where we like to go. Maybe I appeared to Josh the way the truck driver appears to Sam in his dreams: sexy and feminine, calling "Saaam! Saaam!" from behind a rippling veil that separates realities. Only, yeah, I wouldn't be calling him Sam. That would be confusing. Jooosh, Jooosh, you're sleeping, you can hear the ocean, the sand is radiating heat up toward your skin. We have no goats, but a cool breeze floats by and a palapa keeps the sun off your skin. You're sleeping like you never get to sleep, like you always want to. Come back when you're ready. But make sure you come back.


  • RAW Week: Trickster Santa and the Real Revolution, by Tiffany Lee Brown


    Photo of Tiffany Lee Brown by Wiley Wiggins

    Someday I hope to share with you audio from an interview I conducted with Mr. Wilson, but it's entirely possible the old cassette is long gone. I'm still looking. For now, here's text:

    Robert Anton Wilson was kinda more George Carlin and less Timothy Leary than he sometimes appeared. I didn't know him truly, madly, deeply and we did not eat, pray, and love together. (OK, we did eat together, now that I think of it.) I did get to hang out with him a number of times.

    What surprised me most was his practicality. Bob didn't actually strike me as being all that far-out; rather, he seemed a practical guy with a very smart mind and a very wacky sense of humor. Turning on was fun, sure, and led to important and far-reaching discoveries, some directed inward, others outward. Tuning in was essential: homing in on what matters and communicating to the tribe and also, importantly, to the potential tribe, to the yahoos who hadn't gotten all enlightened 'n' shit, the people who might really *need* to have their minds blown.

    But he didn't think that dropping out was an option. He was solid in the pre-old-school sense. Solidly built in physicality, solidly convinced of the efficacy of his ideas, and despite his curmudgeonly tendencies, solidly committed to making the world a better place — or at least showing its denizens some potential for doing it themselves. Sometimes, that's exactly what we need.