Thursday, 29 October 2009

'How I Wrote Elastic Man' Issue One, Ben Katchor.

How I Wrote Elastic Man., originally uploaded by mithering.

I've been wanting to post about some of my favourite comic artists for a while, but I wanted to do it in a way which added something beyond just pretty pictures, so here are some pretty pictures which move and make noise. In the pipeline, and amongst other things, are Mark Beyer and Drew Friedman clips from Liquid Television, Alan Moore being interviewed by a twelve-year old on The Tube and (when I eventually find it) an animatic from Peter Bagge's uncommissioned Buddy Bradley cartoon.

I was prompted to find, and use, this particular interview by a post on the Lost In Manchester blog, which discussed 'ghost adverts', almost wiped away or preserved by accident (they were usually covered up by something which protected them from the ravages of man and time) painted advertisements on the sides and fronts of shops and other commercial properties. There are several around Manchester, periodically revealing themselves to those who look above the pavement, then disappearing forever or being shrouded again, waiting for the next festival or accidental revelation. Ben Katchor's art works in that domain - the deliberate illumination of hidden worlds which were once the mainstream but now lurk, moribund, above and behind the city's walls, streets and shop-fronts.

You can find his website here: Those $25 signed posters look like good value for money.

About Ben Katchor, from Wikipedia.

Ben Katchor (born 1951 in Brooklyn, NY) is an American cartoonist. His comic strip Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer paints an evocative picture of a slightly surreal, historical New York City with a decidedly Jewish sensibility. Julius Knipl has been published in several book collections including Cheap Novelties: The Pleasure of Urban Decay and The Beauty Supply District. Other serialized comics by Katchor include The Jew Of New York (collected and published as a graphic novel in 1998), The Cardboard Valise and Hotel & Farm. He regularly contributes comics and drawings to The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Metropolis magazine. He was a contributor to RAW and published and edited two issues of Picture Story magazine, which featured his own work along with illustrated articles and stories by Peter Blegvad and Jerry Moriarty. He wrote and illustrated a "weeklong electronic journal" for Slate in 1997 and contributed articles to the now-defunct Civilization: The Magazine of the Library of Congress. His comics have been translated into French, Italian, German and Japanese. He currently draws a weekly strip, Shoehorn Technique, for The Forward.
In 1993 Katchor was the subject of a lengthy profile by Lawrence Weschler in the The New Yorker.[1] He won an Obie Award for his collaboration with Bang on a Can on The Carbon Copy Building, a "comic book opera" based on his writings and drawings that premiered in 1999. The same year, he was the subject of Pleasures of Urban Decay, a documentary by the San Francisco filmmaker Samuel Ball. In Michael Chabon's collected essays,Maps and Legends, (McSweeney's Books, 2008, San Francisco), he somewhat idiosyncratically describes Katchor as "the "creator of the last great American comic strip."
The first cartoonist to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, Katchor has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship and is a fellow of the American Academy in Berlin.
Katchor has written several works of musical theater, including The Rosenbach Company (a tragi-comedy about the life and times of Abe Rosenbach, the preeminent rare-book dealer of the 20th century) and The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island, or, The Friends of Dr. Rushower, an absurdist romance about the chemical emissions and addictive soft-drinks of a ruined tropical factory-island. Both feature music by Mark Mulcahy.
Katchor also gives "illustrated lectures" at colleges and museums accompanied by slide projections of his work.

Partial Bibliography
Cheap Novelties: The Pleasures of Urban Decay (Penguin, 1991)
Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: Stories (Little, Brown & Co., 1996)
Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer: The Beauty Supply District (Pantheon Books, 2000)
The Jew of New York (Pantheon Books, 1998)
Picture Story Magazine (editor and contributor) (Two issues, self-published, 1986)

His work also features in the CD booklet for R.E.M.'s 1991 release, Out of Time.

A new book, The Dairy Restaurant, is due later this year.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Ebony and Ivory.

Cormorant in the Trees, originally uploaded by rutthenut.

I walked back up to Salford University along The Crescent yesterday afternoon and noted the cormorants coming in to roost in the trees across the river, opposite the back end of Maxwell Hall. In retrospect, what I thought might have been a variant crow with white on its wings (see previous post) could, in fact, have been a young cormorant, given that the incident occurred only a few hundred yards from the roost. I'll have another look this morning on my way in.

Thanks to rutthenut on flickr for the super photo of a cormorant in a tree (although this chap is in Surrey).

Monday, 26 October 2009

The Streak.

IMG_1760, originally uploaded by melvinheng.

I went through the first 44 years of my life only managing to see two; more recently I began to notice flashes of colour out of the side of my eye, now I can barely look at The Irwell between Peel Park and Boddies without seeing Kingfishers. It reminds me of the time when my mother-in-law was slightly obsessed with those magic eye 3D images that were all the rage a few years back. I looked and I looked and I couldn't see anything. One day she said, just defocus your eyes while looking at one. I did. WOW! A 3D cowboy on a horse. From then on whenever I was looking at one I'd just go 'doink', and defocus my eyes. Two seconds later, there was the image in full effect.

It's like that with the Kingfishers, as if my eyes and my brain suddenly worked out how to go 'doink' so I could see them. This has meant over the past three or four weeks I've been seeing them almost as often as I see the Grey Wagtails, and more often than the Goosanders. Best of all was this morning when I was looking from inside Peel Park towards the opposite bank of the river and heard the now familiar twitter-gargle they make - a bit like a more high-pitched finch song. My eyes went 'doink' and I found it heading up towards Castle Irwell, low above the water. When it reached the gated and locked footbridge, which no longer takes students over the river between Salford University campusses, it turned and headed back, landing about twenty feet in front of me on the concrete riverbank. I tried to get a better look with the binoculars but the movement must have disturbed it and it flew off.

Earlier, I'd been looking from the bridge described above and heard a commotion among some carrion crows in trees on the far bank. Some swooped out and swooped into the foliage, again and again, calling angrily. They were obviously mobbing something. I tried to see clearer what it was, but as I only use a pair of 10x25 bought from Walmart in Canada purely functional compact binoculars it was difficult, but it looked a crow with a thin white stripe along each upper wing. I couldn't get a clear enough view as it, and they, kept moving, but I can only presume it was a crow with a few stray, mutant white feathers. Further along, and now opposite the tree, I looked again, but this time they seemed to be working out their anger on a smaller, brown bird, possibly one of the sparrowhawks which can be seen along there.

Following on from this blog's first anniversary at the weekend I've decided to post a few more of these longer, more city centre nature-focussed pieces, and also to source more photographs from Creative Commons (as I'm never going to get good wildlife photographs). So, thanks to Melvin Heng for the usage of the photograph.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Happy Birthday.

Yesterday was this blog's first birthday and although I fully intended to post something, I never felt quite in the right mood. I exceeded my initial target of posting, on average, at least once a week. As for the direction of the blog, that's something which has evolved during the year, and I'm still not entirely sure what sort of blog this is. In some ways, it's a personal blog with most of the personal stuff taken out. It's also a nature blog, a blog about graffiti, a blog about comics, a blog about the twin cities. I suppose it's a blog about living and working in the north west and sharing the stuff that I enjoy, whether it be kingfishers on The Irwell or obscene graffiti in Salford.

There's more to come, I have three posts currently in draft format, one of which is about European Football Hooligans stickers, and has been in draft for about six months now. I guess I need to kick on and finish it. More recently parked posts cover the non-avian, non-insectoid fauna of Manchester and Salford and the cartoonist Ben Katchor (the first of a series of posts about some of my favourite cartoonists providing I can find appropriate video footage). These will probably show up sooner than you think.

The only constant ingredient for these posts is that the title is the name of a song, something which some correspondents have spotted, so here is the annual round up. From the top:

  • 14 Iced Bears - Jumped In A Puddle
  • James - What The World Is Waiting For
  • The World Of Twist - She's A Rainbow (I know, but that's the version I was thinking of)
  • The Bee Gees - Tragedy
  • New Order - Round and Round
  • Four Below Zero - My Baby's Got ESP
  • The Status Quo - Pictures of Match Stick Men
  • Run DMC ft. Aerosmith - Walk This Way
  • The Hollies - Bus Stop
  • Dion - The Wanderer
  • The Police - Visions of the Night
  • The Tom Robinson Band - Up Against The Wall
  • Roy Orbison - It's Over
  • The Go-Betweens - The Streets Of Your Town
  • The Drifters - Under The Boardwalk
  • Josef K - The Only Fun In Town
  • Slaughter and The Dogs - Where Have All The Boot Boys Gone?
  • Pink Floyd - Careful With That Axe Eugene
  • Sham 69 - If The Kids Are United
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Castles Made of Sand
  • MUFCUM Fans - From The Banks of The River Irwell
  • Jonathan Richman - Chewing Gum Wrapper
  • The Ray Bryant Combo - Madison Time
  • Queen - Another One Bites The Dust
  • The Pixies - In Heaven (The Lady In The Radiator Song) (Again, I know, but this is the version I was thinking of)
  • The Pooh Sticks - It's A Good Day For A Parade (Again, I know, but this is the version I was listening to at the time)
  • The Mekons - Never Been In A Riot
  • Sonic Youth - Kool Thing
  • The Jam - News of The World
  • Fear - I Love Living In The City
  • Indeep - Last Night A DJ Saved My Life
  • Husker Du - Something I Learned Today
  • The Stone Roses - Sally Cinnamon
  • They Might Be Giants - Snail Shell
  • Big Flame - These Boots Are Made For Walking (Nancy's version is pretty sound, as well)
  • John Otway - Cor Baby (That's Really Free)
  • Doris Day - Que Sera Sera
  • Talking Heads - Little Creatures (Okay, I cheated here, it's the title of an LP, but you'll forgive me this one discretion, won't you?)
  • Buzzcocks - Nostalgia
  • The Go-Betweens - Right Here
Even though I don't like every track on there it would have made a pretty good soundtrack to the birthday party which never happened. Next year, I'll have a full-on party with jelly and ice cream, and a bouncy. (Or is that when Glazer dies?)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Up Against The Wall XV: Louis is a Bum

Louis is a Bum, originally uploaded by mithering.

Barbarism Begins At Home. Written in the dust that gathered on the base of our television by his younger brother, Our Louis becomes the latest victim of pointless, stupid and angry graffiti.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Right Here.

Stalybridge v FC United FA Cup 3rd Qualifying round replay - The Goal from FCUM TV on Vimeo.

This deserves a wider view. Jerome Wright's winning goal from last night's FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round replay in Stalyvegas. One more qualifier, a difficult one, against Northwich Victoria at their ground and FC United are in the first round proper of the FA Cup.

Apologies for those of you who dislike football; more senseless graffiti and a post about frogs coming up soon.

Friday, 9 October 2009


Belle Vue 2, originally uploaded by mithering.

So, the second edition of Belle Vue finally rolls into town. I intended to review the sold-out first issue back when I finally managed to get my hands on one, but felt that it wasn’t fresh enough to cover as by then most of the print-run had sold out. The cynic in me also decided it was better to wait and see if they had the staying power to produce another issue. Which they have. Obviously. Good for them.

This time round, the cover features a view under the Castlefield railway arches, lovingly rendered by Neil Dimelow, who also provided the ‘view from Cornerhouse’ drawing on the front of the first issue. His finely rendered work looks like something produced by a slightly dope-addled Chris Ware. The magazine contains mostly illustrations, and one photograph. These work fine, but it’s not clear if there was any collaboration between the writers of the pieces and the illustrators.

The writers of this magazine consist of some people who I’ve known for a long-time, some people who I’ve known for a relatively short time, some total strangers, some people whose work I admire, some people whose work I dislike, and some people whose work just fails to engage me on any level. In the main, it’s well-written, and contains some interesting information and reminiscence, but there’s a huge problem with it. And it’s something that editor Joe addresses directly in his opening editorial; (so directly, in fact, that it’s as if his future-self wrote it as a warning message to an earlier incarnation, but past-self went and ignored it anyway), there’s too much nostalgia contained within.

Now, I’m as guilty as the next man for yanking the nostalgia chain. This blog contains several examples of it. But in this case, it is relentless, and it makes me wonder how the magazine would be received by an audience for whom the little details pored over in here are either exotica (I once put on a musician from Columbus, Ohio, who was thrilled to be driven through Prestwich, regarding it as some sort of northern Memphis, Tennessee) or just navel-gazing.

The real challenge for Belle Vue issue Three is not to come up with another dazzling cover, nor to maintain the already high-level quality of writing, it is to harness the talent evident in that writing and force it to look beyond the local history society and over-30s bar-room banter.

I’m already looking forward to it.

Belle Vue issue Two is available from Piccadilly Records on Oldham Street and Cornerhouse bookshop on the corner of Oxford Road and Whitworth Street West. Edit. I saw it on sale in The Britons' Protection this afternoon, so it may be available in other 'appropriate' hostelries.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Up Against The Wall XIV: Dick Head iz ur dad!

Dick Head iz ur dad!, originally uploaded by mithering.

I forgot about this! Had to go to Liverpool on business the other week so couldn't breeze into town on The Village Bus, so took the 135 instead. Different bus stop. At this one there's a bus shelter. If you're waiting for The Village Bus there's a bush and a suspiciously-high mound of tarmac to wait on/by. Anyhow, bus shelter had (relatively) fresh graffiti. So here it all is, for your delight and delectation, most juvenile first.

Prestwich is shit.

Prestwich is shit? A little unfair, if you ask me. It may not soar to the pretentious heights of whichever south Manchester hell hole is currently overflowing with students, but it has a tidy modesty, a historically-significant mental health facility and my house.

Arse Wipe.

Some times words are enough.