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Tea With Chris: The Poet is a Drag

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Thursday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Carl: I should have mentioned here that I was speaking at this play about Celine Dion, celebrity, self-sacrifice and child abuse last week. However, it’s not too late for those in Toronto to see this fascinating staging of Bliss, by the Quebec playwright Olivier Choinière, translated by Caryl Churchill. I really do recommend it – as The Globe and Mail said, “A disturbing tale about the powerless and the power of love.” Meanwhile, back in Quebec, Choinière has been up to more mischief, which I would call a very exciting bit of parasitic meta-theatre, but which his unwitting and unwilling collaborator called “theatrical rape.” What do you think?

The complicated matter of being the Other Seeger. And that’s even only superficially getting into the contradictions of class and slumming and noblesse oblige.

Here’s a nice account of that Pop Conference thing Chris & I were at last week.

Finally, if that’s just too much human business for you, turn instead to the ursine peoples: 1. Bear on trial. 2. Bear gettin jiggy.

Chris: Speaking of the Pop Conference, reading Jonathan Bogart’s paper about “Urban Romanticism in Latin American Music Between the Wars” may make you wish you’d been there (the panel, the gathering, the city).

Speaking of New York, Edith Zimmerman interviewed one of its great adoptees, Eileen Myles: “To decide to do ‘this’ as a living is to invite barbs that generally pile up around gender and power. The poet is a fag, the poet is a drag, the poet is righteous. But really I think people resent our freedom. Our choice to keep doing something they may have done badly when they were younger and were full of feeling and to keep doing something that supposedly anyone can do – making something out of something as practical and mundane as language is to brand oneself as a lifelong fool rather than merely a fool in her youth. People feel sad about what they disavowed to become who they are now.”

Speaking of people who made art in the 1970s, my friend Sarah Nicole Prickett uses Cindy Sherman’s big Guggenheim retrospective as an opportunity to consider Francesca Woodman’s photographs, mercurial identity as survival strategy and why it will “never not be physiologically and psychologically harder to be female.”

Not speaking at all, just pressing a drum machine into the robotically funky patterns of ’80s Prince, look at the debut jam by aforementioned Korean/Chinese boy band EXO.

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Filed under carl wilson, chris randle, linkblogging, margaux williamson

Weird Little Lines

by Chris Randle


Earlier this week I profiled the scary-talented young cartoonist Michael DeForge, who’s up for three Doug Wright Awards on May 7. But our interview ran long, and got nerdy, so I thought I would share a couple of the more illuminating excisions here.

CR: You recently posted a few pages from The Seed Stirs, a graphic novel that you started drawing last year before abandoning and pretty much destroying it. Why did you finally give up on it? Do you ever worry that something like that might become some fabled lost comic, like Al Columbia’s issue of [the unfinished Alan Moore miniseries] Big Numbers?

MICHAEL DEFORGE: I don’t think anyone’s keeping track of my projects very closely [laughs]. That one went through a few false starts. At first it had a premise that ended up – it was more about a kid’s relationship with his father, and that ended up being the bulk of Lose #3. Then as I kept rewriting it and reworking pages I ended going through three different revisions. Each time I got a few pages in…the final one I got about 17 pages in, I think. But there’s all these things I thought were wrong with the pacing and needed retooling, and some of it was just down to – I realized that I needed to draw it on bigger pages to do what I wanted with it. I just couldn’t use it anymore. And since then…I’d like to return to it, but I feel like I exhausted a lot of post-apocalyptic imagery in Lose #3, so I might want to wait a bit before I immediately return to that. The other thing is that post-apocalyptic literature is really in vogue, moreso than that comic is actually about the logistics of it. Lose #3 takes place in this wasteland, but it’s not a post-apocalyptic thing–

CR: It’s almost a subversion of it. It takes place in this wasteland, but nobody actually seems to notice or care that it does.

MD: Right. Which is a part of it, yeah, but The Seed Stirs was more about these kids living there. So I was afraid I’d be too influenced by a lot of the other stuff that’s happening right now with that. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to wait a few years and decide if I still liked the story.

CR: I guess you could always have chopped up the pages and turned them into a record cover, like Al Columbia apparently did.

MICHAEL DEFORGE: Oh, right, yeah. That’s a horrifying story.

CR: Tell me about the porn anthology that you’re co-editing.

MD: That’s with Ryan Sands, and the first issue will feature Johnny Negron, Derek Ballard, Katie Skelly…That’s been fun to work on. I don’t do a lot of work on that. Anything like that, I always feel like I don’t really earn the title of co-editor, because I’m so passive about everything. But I’m excited about that. Hopefully in the course of the two issues we’ll have a range of sexuality represented there.

CR: I was going to ask about that, actually, if there’s going to be female contributors, because it is great to have a mix of – to not just have boys doing it.

MD: Yeah. The first issue has one female contributor – we might have a second, but as of now it’s not confirmed yet [laughs]. And the second issue, I’ll be the only male contributor. We have less gay material than we might have hoped, but we’re not trying to include one of everything – a lot of the artists that we pick, we pick for aesthetic concerns too. We haven’t been super prescriptive about it, so we’re kind of just seeing how it goes. We’ve been picking artists who we trust and we think would make a diverse mix and seeing what the end result will be.

CR: You should totally approach Gilbert Hernandez [best known for Love & Rockets, but also his bizarre XXX miniseries Birdland].

MD: That would be a dream. That would be amazing.

CR: I think Birdland and maybe Colleen Coover’s Small Favors are…the height of porn comics.

MD: This year was the first time I read Birdland, which is a pretty crazy one.

CR: How everyone changes gender in the middle of it?

MD: Hernandez might be – he’s someone I came to way later, too, but he might be my favourite working cartoonist right now. I don’t know, tied with Clowes or Ware or something, but he’s been a huge influence on me despite my having only come to his work two years ago.

CR: I think he might be my favourite as well, just because we share more of the same cultural touchstones or aesthetic fixations. And I like how…rough his work is, especially in comparison with his brother. Even his clouds look like they’re from another world.

MD: Yeah, the amounts of weird tiny little lines that make up his textures are just amazing. He does my all-time favourite page layouts, I think.

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Filed under chris randle, comics, linkblogging

Ad Austra

by Chris Randle

I was planning to write a real post this week, I swear. Then one of the people I wanted to interview for it came down with a nasty flu. Instead, like Carl last time round, I’m going to share a B2TW-friendly piece from parts elsewhere – my Toronto Standard interview with Katie Stelmanis. Here’s the intro:

“Many theological, mythological and esoteric traditions suggest that knowing an individual’s true name gives one power over them.

But the ancients never had to agonize over band names. Toronto’s Katie Stelmanis switched her stage moniker to Austra last year, and if that handle is less enigmatic than it seems — it’s just her middle name — the change corresponds with a greater musical one. The distorted keyboards and MIDI effects of her 2008 solo debut Join Us have given way to dark, atmospheric electro-pop on Austra’s upcoming Feel It Break, lushly produced and pledged to rhythm. […]

The final result was a little more formal than I might prefer, but that’s magazines for you, and most of them wouldn’t couple the Q&A with 22 minutes of Austra performing inside an artificial cave. Yes, I’m excited about this Toronto Standard business. Carl will be writing for it too. In the meantime, I leave you with a bonus question, ’cause blogs don’t have no word count:

CR: I know it’s not included on the album, but what drew you to cover that Roy Orbison song, “Crying”?

KS: That song…Whenever I choose cover songs, I always choose songs that are really fun for me to sing. And I think, also, songs that are different from the songs that I write. That song is 100% about the words, and about the melody, and the words are just as strong as the melody. I often don’t listen to words when I listen to music, but in that song they’re so potent and so strong that it’s really enjoyable for me to sing. I feel like I’m telling a story, and it’s…it’s a really emotional and beautiful song, and I always take pleasure in singing songs that are telling a story, because my songs don’t really do that.

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Filed under chris randle, music

Gleaming Eyes

by Chris Randle


The academic journal Social Text just published a revised version of my 2010 Pop Conference paper, “Curtis Jackson and the Jeweled Skull.” It’s about 50 Cent’s last shoot-em-up, the history of music video games, war, money, and rap right now. I’m proud of it: this essay is the longest thing I’ve ever written that wasn’t intended for a professor, and the journal’s multiple peer reviewers put it through a critique boot camp. The editing helped. Sometimes you need to grind before leveling up.

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Filed under chris randle, lectures, linkblogging, music

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Tape

by Chris Randle

This is not news to anyone who’s seen our sidebar, but I also have my own personal blog, the comics-centric Gutteral. It’s a few years old now, and it hasn’t seen a substantial update in…months. Too many months. So I’m very happy about the latest post there, an interview with the cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley. It might be a bit hard to follow if you haven’t read his wonderful Scott Pilgrim series, or are unfamiliar with comics in general – the first part of the conversation is especially technical – but there’s plenty of stylish art to look at too, if you’re so inclined.

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Filed under chris randle, comics, linkblogging