You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Just a reminder: Obama’s “infomercial” is tonight at 8 PM. He’s reportedly paid somewhere between $3 and 5 million dollars for this half hour block of air time on NBC, CBS, FOX, Univision, BET, MSNBC, and TV One to make one last argument that the voters should make him the next President. This may fall into the category of overkill since it would appear according to polls that the voters already intend to make him the next leader of the free world, but they’re probably still paranoid since New Hampshire when he was up ahead in the polls by double digits and still lost to Hillary.

But still… Obama infomericial? This sounds interesting. And slightly extravagant. And almost, dare I say, fascinating. Could it really hurt his chances for anything? I doubt it. Are we worried he’ll come off as more mature or informed? Probably not. Plus, he’s got a lot of McCain’s more recent bullshit, like the claims of socialism (if you have any idea of how taxes in this country work, you really can’t talk about socialism or complain about “spreading the wealth around”) and this bullshit about being “tested,” to address in something larger than just a sound bite.

This one’s for Benjamin Light:

If you guessed, you guessed right: The title of this post is a line in the Bob Dylan song, “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” which is also where the Weatherman got their name from. That’s the group you’ve heard about quite a bit lately since one of their members is William Ayers, “the domestic terrorist that Barack Obama’s been palling around with,” according to Senator McCrazyballs and Governor Palin.

Personally, this is the only endorsement I need:

But Jay-Z suggests you vote for Obama too. As does Josh from The West Wing and Al Bundy and George’s dad.

What a shock that the young college Republican was lying about being attacked by an Obama supporter.

Obama is Robin Hood! He’s going to steal from the rich and give to the poor! No, not really.

Deficit, deficit, deficit!

Seven days, John.”

Barack Obama eats babies!

Apparently three out of five nights a week, Keith Olbermann takes a hot steamy dump on Bill O’Reilly’s ratings. Also, no one watches Lou Dobbs. He’s the most Summer’s Eve-est of talking heads.

There’s voting problems in some states? Fucking shocking. Shocking!

What are the candidates hiding?

Fuck debates, what Americans really want to see in settling this challenge is an Obama/McCain Dance Off! Barack’s Dance Crew vs. McCain’s Grand Ole Posse. There’s some serious serving going on here:

Harrison Ford voted best movie President.

Palin says that Obama will rewrite the constitution in Karl Marx’s image. Sigh. Win or lose, many see her as the future of the Republican party. “Anyone who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible without feminine upheaval.”

Young, Republican, and inspired by Palin. Ladies, you are obviously getting yourself ready for some disappointment. And I am just the man for your downward spiral.

Well, Palin does have a bigger, better, brighter future in the party than this “pro-America” nutjob.

John McCain puts women’s health where it belongs: In derisive air quotes!

Apparently more people are cheating on their spouses these days. You don’t realize it, but that story is totally about me.

California candidate apologies for sultry robo call.

Unrelated, Battlestar Galactica comes back soon, yes?

Undecided voters: Who the fuck are these people and seriously, what the fuck is wrong with them?

And last, but not least: 5% of the Florida votes who already voted… don’t know who they voted for.

Well, you can bump and grind, and it’s good for your mind.

You can twist and shout and let it all hang out…

Children Of The Revolution” by Marc Bolan and T-Rex.

Released in September of 1972… Just look at that video. This is pure ridiculous glam rock. Maybe too much so, yes, but this puts The Darkness to hot, nasty shame. Aside from Bowie, to me, Marc Bolan is glam. Most people my age, if they’ve ever heard of him or T-Rex, it was through a car commercial years back that used “20th Century Boy” as it’s anthem (the song was also used in a Levi’s commercial starring Brad Pitt in 1991), which is harshly ironic considering that Bolan died in a car accident, but when has that ever stopped commercialization?

Now why do I choose to share this song with you now? Simple. To me, this should be the campaign song of 2008.

Above is a much tamer version of the song, from what I believe is Born To Boogie, a concert film from 1972 featuring rare footage shot inside Apple studios with the likes of Elton John and Ringo Starr. Not a bad version at all, but it lacks a certain energy that this song demands.

But as far as politics go: I really like that Obama appeals to a higher cause in America, the idea of unfulfilled promise and undaunted hope for all people, something you’d see in an emmy-worthy scene on The West Wing, maybe. I want to get that JFK part deux/here comes the new messiah vibe too, but I think I’m too jaded. But I like that he takes that high road (which is easy when you look at how crazy and hate-filled even McCain’s walk is, let alone rhetoric), because… well, you have to. He is the future, and the possibility of unification based on ideas regardless of skin color, wealth, religion, etc., so why not show a little class and maturity? Especially when you’re taking your belt off to quite literally spank the previous generation in the polls in front of the entire nation.

But then there’s people like me. Too damn jaded. Too angry. I want to be more optimistic, but instead I’m angry. Almost John McCain angry. To the point that it’s not enough for me to see Obama win. I want to see McCain lose. Read this article and see why, but more than simply McCrazyballs himself, I hate this new post-Rove era in America where it’s okay to be stupid, it’s okay to just sit back, get fat, dumb, and masturbate to the illusion of happiness and security. I hate that we’ve just accepted that we’re uninformed. And I hate that we’ve let them get away with it for so fucking long now.

That’s the Violent Femmes covering the song back in 1986 and I like that version as much as the original heavy glam version. I remember hearing their version of it years ago at an 80s themed party and having to stop for a moment and let it’s not too subtle meaning wash over me. Yes, WE, the younger generation could be the children of the revolution, but only if we wanted to, and only if we acted on that desire. But I was just some guy standing around at a party, what did I know?

So, only knowing the things I know, I’m going to talk about music here with my politics. Remember the Clinton’s campaign song? “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac. Pure Baby Boomer. Pure optimism in a wife swapping musical collective’s anthem. I didn’t even know why at the time, being that I was probably 11 the year Clinton won the Presidency, but even I knew that song resonated in some way. “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow…”

Sure, Obama’s probably got this election in the bag already, but I’m not ready to just sit back and be happy about that yet. It’s not over yet, it’s probably going to be close in places, and I still want to fight. I want to send that very important message: We won’t get fooled again. And The Who song is a bit cliched at this point.

As far as “Children Of The Revolution” goes, this is some very European MILF performing the song live (it’s kind of terrifying, like watching Heart reunite on way too many pills) and this is Bono and Gavin Friday’s version of the song on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. This is the borderline horrible Baby Ford version , Patti Smith covering it at a T-Rex tribute concert in NYC in 2007, and here it is used in Neil Jordan’s Breakfast On Pluto. And this is Elton John and Pete Doherty covering the song in a fairly shambolic manner at Live 8:

I’m not honestly sure if Pete Doherty’s drunk or just forgotten their lyrics a few times there or both, but it still tells me that the man belongs on stage making music rather than walking around in his own life. On his own he’s just a mess of a manchild, groping his way along to what you hope isn’t a pathetically easy to guess unhappy ending. Fuck forever, indeed.

Tomorrow’s one week til the election. Hopefully the children of the revolution won’t get fooled again.

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Continuing what has seemingly become my informal series on magic words and art, today I’m going to hit you in the face with what is perhaps the greatest poem of nonsense verse in the English language, “Jabberwocky.”

Written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a brilliant practitioner in the art of literary nonsense, but who was also sometimes an equally impressive mathematician, logician, and photographer. Oh, and he also did some writings under the nom de plume of Lewis Carroll.

The poem is housed within the second half of Carroll’s most famous work, Through The Looking-Glass, And What Found There. Fascinating things can be pulled out of the two works, this one, and it’s predecessor, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. The two books are day and night of each other, or more accurately, reflections of each through an oddly reflecting mirror. The first book opens up outdoors in the summer (on Alice’s birthday, May 4) and the second book opens indoors six months later (on November 4, the day before Guy Fawkes Night). And whereas the first book had a deck of 52 cards as it’s theme, this book was more based around a chessboard with Alice herself as a pawn.

I could go on forever about how nonsense and dream logic can blend wonderfully, especially in the case of these works, but I want to talk about “Jabberwocky” right now instead. But before I do, thanks to the beauty of the public domain, I can just share the poem with you here (with both Wikisource and this fine site willing to offer you audio versions to read along with):

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought–
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

The first verse of the poem originally appeared in Mischmasch, a periodical that Carroll wrote and edited for the amusement of his relatives, and he passed it off as piece of found Anglo-Saxon poetry. The finished poem was something of a joke of Carroll’s, a parody on how bad poetry could be, and how it should not be written, but somewhere in there, a transition to viewing it as a work desiring serious study happened. This was predicted by G.K. Chesterton who commented on how the satire became taken serious, suffering through pedestrian translation and analysis and eventually becoming a subject of classrooms. In 1932, Chesterton wrote, “Poor, poor little Alice! She has not only been caught and made to do lessons; she has been forced to inflict lessons on others.”

Poor Alice indeed. I imagine if you mention Lewis Carroll at all these days, people automatically begin to think about the presumed pedophilic relationship between him and the real life Alice Liddell. She was the daughter of the new Dean at the school he worked at and he grew quite close with the entire family, but especially Alice and her two sisters. Plus, he had a hobby of photographing young girls either nude or semi-nude. After his death, his family removed quite a few pages from the various volumes of his diaries, in “the interest of preserving the family name,” especially the entry for June 27, 1863, when it’s presumed that Carroll proposed marriage to the 11 year old Alice. It’s entirely likely, but there’s also very interesting rival theories that Carroll was involved with Alice’s older sister, Lorina, or maybe even her mother.

Above is a picture of a young woman (from here) standing beside the tree in the gardens at Christ Church, Oxford that is supposed to have inspired the Jabberwock in Carroll, especially with it’s lond and winding limbs evocative of the Hydra.

I should really mention the artist whose illustrations helped to bring some of Carroll’s fantastical creatures alive, John Tenniel, a serious political cartoonist for Punch magazine in the late 1800s. He wanted to be know more for his topical caricatures, but instead is known for some of the most famous literary illustrations ever, especially considering how much a reader would have to initially rely on his depictions for some clarity and description that Carroll’s work sometimes lacked (especially in the case of the Jabberwock).

I should also mention that I recently picked up Alice In Sunderland by Bryan Talbot, author of The Adventures Of Luther Arkwright and The Tale Of One Bad Rat (the second most borrowed graphic novel in American libraries). The insides look absolutely amazing with a combination of convential art of varying styles and photo work and, well, I’ll let Wikipedia explain to you that “it explores the links between Lewis Carroll and the Sunderland area (where Carroll lived and the Alice books were written), with wider themes of history, myth, and storytelling – and the truth about what happened to Sid James on stage at the Sunderland Empire Theatre.” I could not be more excited to read it.

From magic words to German expressions to portmanteau and nonsense words (though I love that some of the words from the poem, such as “chortled” and “galumphing” have found a home in the English language) and the art that accompanies them, we just keep going down that rabbit hole, don’t we?

If reading the poem isn’t your cup of tea, then perhaps you’d just prefer to watch the Muppets’ version? Or maybe Kate (daughter of Richard) Burton’s fairly powerful reading of it from the 1983 movie version? Or maybe this scene from the 1985 TV version produced by Irwin Allen in which the Jabberwock is remarkably conventionally rubber suited.

An excellent internet resource about both “Jabberwocky” and the Alice books.

From Lewis Carroll To Sid James,” a review of Alice In Sunderland by The Guardian.

Jabberwocky, the first film by Terry Gilliam as a solo director.

Tenniel’s illustrations for Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland at Project Gutenberg.

The upcoming Tim Burton version of Alice In Wonderland.

Jabberwacky!

And special thanks to Magic Molly Young for her kind permission to use the above picture of her, which is excellent in every way possible. Here is a list of things she’s written (which you should be reading!) and look for her writing in the pages of Maxim coming next February in which that magazine becomes interesting for the first time ever.

And until next time… THE JABBERWOCK STRIKES!

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”        -Lewis Carroll.

Masquerade!

All Hallow’s Eve. Soon to be upon us. The costume you wear says so much about you. I just can’t decide, so I’m going to put the question to in internets:

Which one of these iconic screen characters of 2008 should Benjamin Light go as for Halloween?

1) Jim from The Office

 

The Everyman

The Everyman

 

2) Harvey Dent from The Dark Knight

The D.A.

The D.A.

 

3) McNulty from The Wire

The Alcoholic Irish Pig

The Alcoholic Irish Pig

 

4) Rob from Cloverfield

The Nice Guy

The Nice Guy

 

5) Daniel Farraday from Lost

The Physicist

The Physicist

 

Decisions, decisions. Do your worst.

Once is never enough.

Isn’t that the truth?

I was stalking through the internet yesterday looking for people’s thoughts on 8 1/2 and where “asa nisi masa” was sprinkled about the world (it’d make the ultimate tattoo, body art freaks), I happened upon a blog of a woman whom appears to be a teacher, and she was talking about how she was teaching her students the classic Fellini film that week (the week she posted the blog, back in September of 2007). One of the commenters on her blog mentioned that she should take a gander at the Pauline Kael review of the movie, citing that the venerable critic hated the movie and it’s pretentious intellectualism, saying, “Fellini throws in his disorganized ideas and lets the audience sort out their meanings for themselves.” I think that’s called the Tarantino method, only Fellini is of course a real filmmaker and Tarantino is a fan boy with connections.

Pauline Kael then goes on to quote the film itself, when the wife says to the husband, “If you had any brains you’d take them out and play with them.” Which segues nicely into me saying that this, in the movie, all has to do with a seemingly orthodox fear of onanism and exploring a healthy guilt-free sexuality.

The commenter on that blog who mentioned the Kael review also essentially remarked that anything he said should be taken with a grain of salt after all, because he had only seen the movie once. And then he added, “Einmal ist keinmal.”

Being the third time I’d heard this phrase in the span of a few weeks, my ears (or eyeballs, I guess) perked up. I believe in connections. I don’t really put much faith in sweet little fictions like God, or Jesus as he’s known (I’m sorry, but I find it hard to believe that a carpenter who looked like Barry Gibb who was strolling around in sandals and wowing the hoi polloi with simple street magic should be my messiah), but I do believe in a much higher power in this sometimes breathtakingly beautiful, sometimes surprisingly fucked up universe: Synchronicity.

Yesterday it was asa nisi masa, the anima and the animus, and now it’s synchronicity. Somehow it always comes back to Jung, doesn’t it? Don’t just take my word for it, though I’m pretty sure this happy looking Asian couple will agree with me:

Einmal ist keinmal is a simple German phrase that literally translates as “once is never.” Or, if you want to get much looser: “Once is never enough.” But that has slightly positive connotations, doesn’t it? From what I read, when used in commonplace German conversations (which I imagine involves lots of yelling and screaming because, after all, it’d be Germans having this conversation)(and I know what you’re thinking, cause it’s the same thing I’m thinking when I see a bunch of Germans talking: “Hitler, Hitler, Hitler…”)(If you’re pondering where the humor is there, I don’t mind telling you: It’s in the racism) it pretty much denotes a having to prove something by doing it more than once.

Like I said, the blog comment yesterday was the third encounter I’ve had with this phrase popping it’s way into my life. The second was about a week ago when I was having a conversation with an incredibly smart and strikingly beautiful German girl in a bookstore. She was loud and very domineering (Hitler, Hitler, Hitler!), but in a very wonderfully European way, as was her freeness and her very casual charm. We almost ran into each other on the fiction aisle, both of us not really looking where we were going as we were thumbing through the I’s (that’s almost a meta comment right there). This lead to a conversation about Kazuo Ishiguro. I said I was a fan of his and she said she’d only read one of this books. “It was good,” she told me in a way that didn’t make her accent sound like culture vomit. “Very easy, very free flowing in a nice way, but you know… Einmal ist keinmal.”

And I have to tell you that she was impressed that I actually knew what the expression meant, and I did, because I had seen it a few weeks earlier when I was reading MOME #11. If yo don’t know what it is, MOME is a quarterly literary journal conceived by Gary Groth and published by Fantagraphics that’s primary storytelling medium is sequential art rather than prose, and featuring a lot of stars of the independent, high minded comics scene like Andrice Arp, Al Columbia (who killed Big Numbers), Jim Woodring, Sophie Crumb, Dash Shaw, and many others.  It’s typically a fun read and nice for those of us who just can’t fucking afford Kramers Ergot.

Killoffer was the headliner of Vol. #11 with a story called, surprise, surprise, “Einmal Ist Keinmal.” Killoffer is a French artist and writer and one of the co-founders of an independent French comics publisher called L’Association. He doesn’t acknowledge it, but his style is a very experimental take on ligne claire (what that means to you is Hergé and a future Adventures of Tintin movie coming to a theater near you soon, directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Steven Moffat). He only has one book published in America so far, but he’s considered one of the best of the foreign artists being sought for more appearances stateside.

Killoffer’s “Einmal Ist Keinmal” fits in nicely to vol. #11 of MOME with it’s strong focus on visuals rather than text. The black and white 12 page story going about her life, waking up, showering, going to work, dealing with coworkers, going out to eat, dreaming, watching the news, etc. except that every man she sees or encounters looks exactly like Killoffer. Every man she works with is Killoffer. Every man on the street is Killoffer. Every guy on the mass transit system is Killoffer. When she sees the President on the TV, he’s Killoffer. The only deviation from this is in a dream she has where the man she meets has Killoffer’s hair but her face. Things get intimate and when she begins to fondle her potential dream lover’s penis we discover that hiding there in his foreskin is Killoffer’s very distinct head. That’s a striking image in particular, but the stark black and white works nicely with the vague nightmare-ish quality to the story that’s either an interesting take on the male gaze, or the fact that Killoffer loves himself. Or that he has a hard time drawing male figures that don’t look like him (which fits neatly with his English language book, The 676 Apparitions Of Killoffer). I won’t spoil the story’s excellent final mise-en-scène, but it works nicely.

It’s a nice introduction to the artist and at some point, I think I’d like to look at some more of his work, so I should get his book and have a look at it. Einmal ist keinmal!

It would also be a shame of me not to mention that the phrase is used to mean “what happens might as well never have happened” in Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness Of Being. The books falls into the category of those classics that I’ve started and sadly not finished (something the fraulein in the bookstore gave me a good deal of shit about rightfully so), but maybe someday? Maybe. I do remember from it the notion that womanizing is man’s essential es muss sein! and that life basically sucks, full of unbearable lightness, and we all have only one life to live and therefore everything we do or decide is pointless and insignificant. The Prague Spring and super hyper existentialism! Oh, and eventually it made into a movie with Daniel Day-Lewis, Lena Olin, and Juliette Binoche that I’m told has it’s fair share of eroticism in it.

Now I totally want to see a future Counterforce post called “The Unbearable Lightness Of Benjamin,” don’t you? Ha ha!

Some of what you might consider graphic novels are becoming literature.

Sarah Palin is getting her own comic book.

Speaking of which, here is a nice series of profiles on political cartoonists, including Goya and Tenniel.

As you may’ve seen an associate of this very blog say in the comments in my previous post, there will be some form of posse from Counterforce at next year’s Wondercon in San Francisco. I’d say we’ve established decent nerd cred for that already, right? Einmal ist keinmal! I’d like to sporatically continue talking about various independent comics and graphic novels here and there, but I believe my next post will probably be about Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and the slaying of the manxome Jabberwock. See you then.

Four colors, the beautiful confusion, and “the X stands for everything.”

Asa Nisi Masa.

There’s a scene in Fellini’s brilliant 8 1/2 where Guido, the blocked director struggling to make his new film, flashes back to his childhood living with a large family in a farmhouse. It’s late and the family has left the children alone and Guido’s cousin (or sister, or… whatever) awoke Guido to remind him: “Asa Nisi Masa.” That was their secret chant when looking at the painting on the wall. Those were the magic words to make the picture move, to bring it to life, to have it’s eyes point in the direction of treasure. “Asa Nisi Masa. Asa Nisi Masa,” they’d drone on and on by the light of the fire…

It has an effect on Guido, never really leaving his mind, so much so that many decades later a couple of magicians who at first appear to be frauds are able to pull the cryptic phrase from his mind. It’s a nifty cinematic trick, a bridge from the future to the past, showing us a little of the way the mind of Guido, Fellini’s stand in, works. And the way he feels that he’s losing his gift as a director, his magical ability to make the pictures move. But it’s also so much more.

“Asa Nisi Masa” is child speak pig latin for Anima, the unconscious true inner self in Jung’s school of analytical psychology as opposed to the persona, the outer aspect of one’s personality. Well, actually, it’s more than just that. Anima is the personification of the repressed feminine characteristics in the male mind (while animus would be the personification of the repressed masculine characteristics in the female mind). This deeper level is just another of the many reasons why this movie, originally titled La Bella Confusione (The Beautiful Confusion), works so perfectly, since it’s essentially detailing for us Guido’s intense confusion when it comes to dealing with women. He has to balance his voracious sexual appetite with his religious programming with what seems to be his inability to fully understand how or why relationships work. Or how to control them. And on top of it, there’s his creative impulses, and his desire to conjure up the magic words to make it all work, to fuse it all together to make the pictures move.

On my first viewing of 8 1/2 (given that title because it was total number of films that Fellini had directed, and this movie is all about him, a man working his through his issues, working through his block and finding himself still arrogant and egotistical but also filthy with talent) years ago I didn’t even come closing to picking up on what “Asa Nisi Masa” meant. I think you can understand the nature of Guido and his women pretty easily even if you don’t have words like Anima and names like Carl Jung to throw at it, but my interest in pushing deeper and discovering and devouring that extra bit came when I noticed those magical words, that special incantation to make the image come to life, in the pages of a comic book.

Casanova, created and written by Matt Fraction. Issues #1-7 (season 1, “Luxuria“) illustrated by Gabria Ba and issues #8-14 (season 2, “Gula”) illustrated by Ba’s twin brother, Fabio Moon. You can read the first issue here. As insane as it sounds, the series has been called the first important comic of the 21st century and I’m starting to lean in that direction myself, or at least happy to see that it’s a series unafraid of letting smart and fun go hand in hand together. I’ll let Wikipedia give you a general summary of the series: At the beginning of the first issue, Casanova “Cass” Quinn works as a freelance thief and espionage artist who has turned his back on the rest of the Quinn family. His father, Cornelius, runs the world spanning spy organization E.M.P.I.R.E. of which Casanova’s twin sister Zephyr is a top agent, while his mother Anna has been hidden away in a vegetative state for unknown reasons. Casanova is the black sheep of the family and only makes contact with his father when his sister is killed during a mission – they meet again and fight at her funeral.

The funeral is actually a turning point for Casanova’s life as a mystery device is planted on him without his knowledge, a device which thrusts him bodily into the inner sanctum of Newman Xeno – a bandaged super-genius hedonist running an evil organization called W.A.S.T.E (referencing Pynchon’s The Crying Of Lot 49, though taking it step further and having W.A.S.T.E. always stand for something different, like “We’re All So Terribly Excited” one moment, and something else the next). This Xeno, however, reveals that Casanova’s actually been transplanted into a parallel timeline – moving from Timeline 909 to Timline 919 – where Casanova was the dead E.M.P.I.R.E. agent and the very much alive Zephyr is the bad girl thief working for W.A.S.T.E. The morally ambivalent Casanova is drawn into a deceitful game where he appears as his own dead counterpart to work both sides of the W.A.S.T.E./E.M.P.I.R.E. coin.

From there, I’ll just add that it’s like Super Alias on magic sex drugs from the future, with Casanova going on missions for the good guys while also carrying out counter-missions at the same time for the bad guys and trying to keep his head above water when it concerns those who want to control him (and his very naughty, very fun sister). Some of the missions involve snatching up former E.M.P.I.R.E. agents who’ve gone all Colonel Kurtz on an island of orgone-fueled robot orgies or having to kidnap a David Blaine-like magician (David Blaine fucking wishes) who’s undergone a 12 year long meditation like procedure to turn himself into a living God while then having to come up with a robot double to replace the original because his counter-mission involves “creating a little zen chaos.”

The series is heavily influenced by Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius and things like Diabolik and Casanova is drawn like a much cooler version of 70′s Mick Jagger. The series impresses with each new issue with it’s continuous references, whether it be children named after old CIA torture manuals, aliases derived from albums by The Mountain Goats, or lines like “I want to shoot this guy so bad my dick is hard,” which both comes from New Jack City and manages to be a very nice, very not too subtle bit of foreshadowing.

I had read the first season of Casanova (as they break up the storylines in easy to digest television-like mini batches, utilizing season premiere issues and season finale issues, “previously in Casanova” recap segments, etc.)(it makes it easy for a writer like Fraction to do something like this, which he clearly loves, then take a break and go work for someone like Marvel and make some actual money) about a year back and finally got around to reading the second one this past weekend. It was, unsurprisingly, excellent. And best of all, not at all what you expected. All the set up laid out in the last issues of the first season? Barely touched upon, and when touched upon, widely expanded, and the series was bold enough to barely even feature it’s lead character this time around, instead leading the excellent supporting cast take over for a storyline unofficially titled “When is Casanova Quinn?”

Each issue (and you can’t really see it in the above cover, but each issue usually has a vaguely Klimt-like quality that I love for it’s ugly simplicity) in the second season was good (and filled with the same kidn of treats for longtime readers and those who just generally pay attention as fans of The Venture Bros. would get) but then I got to #10 and the series became so much more for me. The issue starts at the masquerade ball reveal of particularly cruel version of reality TV. A young woman, the guest of honor, learns that the morbidly obese man that she thought was her therapist is actually the ringmaster in orchestrating every single event in her life over the past few years, every high, every low, and that it’s all been filmed for the enjoyment of his demented troupe and he whom call themselves The Secret Cinema. Her uptight banker boyfriend who she had to begrudgingly ask to perform oral sex on her? He’s actually a gay hustler with hepatitis, which she probably has now too. Your roommate? She’s been selling her panties online and using the money to buy hidden recording equipment in the bathroom. The kindly elderly landlord and his wife? They’ve been the ones in charge of putting disgusting things in her food. And all of it’s been filmed. And all of it’s been laughed at. She’s been the butt of these people’s jokes for a long time now as they’ve “focus group fucked and gang bang branded” her life into a narrative and as she breaks down at the reveal, they celebrate. They’re going to turn her out into some prostitution ring now that her human spirit is completely broken apart. “Asa nisi masa,” the ringleader says gleefully, caressing her tear-stained cheek as she kneels before him, emotionally shattered. “Open your head,” he tells her, “and the let the pictures come…”

“I want to shoot this guy so bad my dick is hard,” says Casanova’s sister, Zephyr, as she watches all of this on tape during a mission brief. She’s become the female lead with a twist of the second storyline, and is now working for a hi-tech super terrorist group calling themselves X.S.M. The S and M stand for Super Mechanix and the X stands for anything they want it to. The X stands for nothing, or anything, so therefore, “the X stands for everything.” They’ve been hired to kill the ringleader of The Secret Cinema, the large fraudulent psychiatrist Dr. Toppogrosso, and Zephyr’s the girl to do the job. But she doesn’t just want to kill him, she wants to destroy his whole organization, and for fun too, the same fun he takes out of destroying others.

She goes undercover as a mousy librarian-looking new patient of Dr. Toppogrosso’s and willingly sets herself up for one of his traps. She gives him information about herself and he begins his schemes on her, first hoping to shock her by blowing her car up in front of her, but it doesn’t shock her, she tells him. It excites her. She gives her statement to the police at the scene of the explosion and she checks herself out in the mirror of a car parked there. “it suddenly felt important to look good,” she tells the doctor, though she knew that one of his cameramen was hidden in that very car, capturing her admiring her appearance. Then she went and got ice cream from the supermarket. As much as she wanted, all of it because it was very unhealthy. At home, after devouring several cartons of the ice cream (“Gula,” the title of second arc, in addition to being a Babylonian goddess, means “gluttony” and in a lot of different ways, that’s very much what this storyline is about) she gets herself off right there on the couch. And again and again, she proudly tells the faux therapist. This blows his mind since she appeared to be such a timid creature when she first entered his office for her first appointment (she wears glasses after all!), but now he’s impressed, shocked, amazed. “Such naked candor,” he moans in awe. She smiles and says it’s something she’s gotten very good at, and asks if he’d like to see what else she’s gotten good as she removes her shirt in front of him.

There, tattooed right over her heart, are the words “Asa nisi masa.”

She then takes the doctor sexually right there in his chair, pulling him out of his amazement and into her. I won’t spoil the big reveal of the “Gula” storyline too overtly for you here, but what you’re seeing is a brilliant play on the male super sexuality usually on display in spy stories. That and the fact that “asa nisi masa” isn’t just the words that make the pictures move, it’s also the words that bring the anima to life. Oh, and I will add that Zephyr films her seduction of Dr. Toppogrosso and plays it later as she climaxes during a particularly fitting orgy of violence in a cinema.

In the backmatter to Casanova #10, Matt Fraction talks about how the name of The Secret Cinema came from an old Paul Bartel short film (that was later remade by the director into an episode of Amazing Stories) he had seen when he was younger. He also mentioned seeing 8 1/2 when he was younger and how much it affected him, especially the scene with young Guido, the director’s semi-autobiographical stand in. “You know why I love Fellini?” Fraction says, “because his movies feel like my dreams feel.”

In that same mini essay in the back of the issue, Fraction brings up something that I had forgotten, despite my vast reservoir of useless knowledge about classic films. Throughout the filming of the 8 1/2, Fellini kept a note taped to the camera as a constant remember to himself. It said, “REMEMBER: THIS IS A COMEDY.”

Fraction then mentions that he keeps a similar note taped to his computer monitor when he’s writing: DON’T SUCK.

Chicken scratched on a piece of paper in front of me as I write this are the words “Einmal ist keinmal.” They almost literally translate as “once is nonce,” or “once is never,” or even “one time is no time.” Why? I’m so glad you asked. Stop by tomorrow and maybe, just maybe, I’ll tell you. Until then, I’m going to see if I can make the pictures move…

Sunday Funday Link O Rama

The boys here are into Yahoo, but I’m all about Google and their never ending vigilance. A few selections from my Google Reader:

1. Why God invented camera phones. Also, something that strikes fear into the heart of every transit rider, except for the pervs: the BART Boner.

2. Meredith from the Office on dieting: ” I used to go straight from work to my neighborhood dive. Not anymore. Now I walk there. I get some good exercise and don’t have to worry about swallowing a half-roll of pennies to fool the breathalyzer.” Speaking of The Office, it looks like you can actually purchase Serenity By Jan. Someone is having a birthday soon and I do love scented candles (hint, hint).

3. Nickstarr: yo, check it out! Last weekend, I got wrapped up in this dude’s drama when he threatened to kill himself and someone on my Twitter friends list tried to save him. He showed up alive the next day. His friend Adamjackson friend-dumped him via Twitter! THIS WEEK, he is being accused of stealing some chick’s iPhone. I eat this shit up, I really do.

4. How embarassing for us: motherfucking CHINA is oferring Sex Ed to Youth!

5. In more sexy news: Melissa Gira tells us it’s the end of the sexpert, and I have to say, her argument is pretty convincing. On a semi-related note, Tracy Clark-Flory writes about a recent rash of sex writer layoffs and more so, what the role of the sex writer is, in our de-sensitized to everything society in Sex Writing Goes Limp. She says: “Often times, instead of learning about the emotional and intellectual facets of a stranger’s sex life — and, most interesting, those contradictory cross-currents — I have felt an unwilling participant in their exhibitionistic fantasy. Why would I pay — be it with money or page views — to turn on a sex writer? I don’t read sex columns for the voyeuristic thrill, either; I read them for the same reason I read novels or watch movies –  it helps me to intimately know people. Good sex writing is like an inkblot test, for the author and reader.”

6. Be careful when you switch over your relationship status on Facebook. You never know how your ex will react. Some will write a really mean blog entry about your new girlfriend on a social networking site and then delete it (I don’t know who would do such a thing). Others will ..well, they’ll react very poorly

7. Motherfucking, not hot Sarah Palin was on SNL, in live, elitist, NOT AMERICA, New York City and she got to say “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”. Pieces of my little comedy nerd heart are now laying on the floor.

8. Best blog entry of the weekend: Tess Lynch on the Monopoly game at McDonald’s

9. This totally blows my mind: the Russian pop duo TATU (responsible for that awwwwesome song, “All The Things She Said”), was in an amatuer porno clip. Yes! We all knew that’s where they were headed, but to see it materialize is pretty amazing.

10. Finalmente, the last link of the night… some bitch wants you to call her and tell her a story. Any story. It’s a little something called Tell Me Something or The Confession Line and she wants you to call her and tell her something. This is the number: 646-495-9203 x 49934 (and this is the website: Tell Me Something)