Friday, September 16, 2016

Get to know me

In the event that you will be meeting me or buying my work I thought you might like to know more about me.  Probably you don't give a shit.  But soon I will win the Nobel Prize for Literature, so I'd suggest get yourself a bit more info.

I will be attending FALL CON as a GUEST.


I live in Minnesota, and have in the past lived in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, and North Dakota.  I have a number of college degrees, in history and political science.  I find ancient human life to be totally and magnificently interesting.  I have an undergrad degree from UMinnesota Duluth, and a Master's degree from North Dakota State University (Go Bison!).  I think I'd like to live in North Dakota, or the wilds of northern Minnesota.  

I am a poet, an essayist, a prose writer, and lover of cats.  I write daily, 80 hours each week.  I am imperfect in everything I do, I am flawed beyond measure.  But I love doing it.  Writing is my life.  I am not suggesting I am anything but a guy who writes.


I believe in God, I write to express myself, and also to create art.  I do not consider poetry/prose writing's main purpose to be beautiful.  I believe it is meant to enlighten and on the journey that the words take you, the elegant presentation should be economic, but also easy to listen to.  Some people expect poetry to solely be aimed at pure beauty.  I do not.  Therefore, you may or may not find my take on poetry to work for you.

I collect books, some comics, and hockey cards.  I read 3-4 books a week, but, sadly, mostly for reference.  However, the authors I collect are limited.  So, while i have little money, at times I can score big at a used book store.  I love HP Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Edgar Allan Poe.


I am married, have been since 1988.  I have a wonderful son, who is graduating in May 2017.  We hope to save enough money to visit the San Diego Comic Convention 2017.   My son hopes to take a year to work prior to entering community college, university or an apprenticeship.


The above offer is good until the blog entry is taken down.  Contact me at Alexanderness63@ gmail.com for my paypal if you'd like these 10 books sent to you for $55 USD.  They are all in new condition, and will be signed, unless you prefer unsigned.   Offer good only to the continental USA.

As I've said I love cats.  I truly love them.  I love them love them love them.


My cat Sophia --> Photograph copyright Jonathan Ness  2015

My cat Katya --> Photograph copyright Jonathan Ness 2015



I also love art, usually of the Pre-Raphaelites, and often I find myself lost on the Wikiart pages in stunned joy.  I once wanted to be an artist, and then I saw what artists can do.  I am no artist. 



Oh, if you are on Facebook and wish to be friends there I am at X and XX
On Twitter you can find me at X



Halloween Readings To scare you


October approaches with the speed of time passing through your fingers.  My son began his final year in high school, and he is doing well.  It seems impossible.  Yesterday he was a 7 year old running to me and hugging me.  Now, he is this huge (compared to the 7 year old) kid who is brilliant, nearly an adult, kind, and all those good things.  Time is unfair, but it isn't the only thing in life to be so.

And due to my schedule I am not able to spend time, as I have in the past, promoting horror, monster movies, tpbs of comics with vampires and the like.  This will be pretty much it.


I've chosen books for you to consider that have some degree of acceptance as good works in the genre/subject.


Werewolves and wolf packs are not as popular it seems as vampires, but are by far more interesting to me.  Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King has brilliant art within by Bernie Wrightson, an amazing artist who loves depicting horror.


I truly adore Brian Lumley's writing skills.  His Necroscope series is one that I've only recently indulged fully in.  And the vampires he writes are not truly the undead, or blood suckers, in the true sense.  They are a form of energy, with human characteristics, who feed upon human souls/blood.  The aspects that are familiar are revisioned and made better, and the aspects that are brand new are made clear for the reader to dwell in the horribly scary place they come from.


Anne Rice is a wonderful writer, who has a way with Vampires.  She is a person I adore as well.  Stephen King is a great writer, perhaps among the best ever America has produced, but due to his "fixation" upon writing horror he'll likely never get his due.  However he gets lots of dough instead of due.  So there is that.   Bram Stoker's words are far far far better than any of the movie roles Dracula appeared in, so it is with some joy I suggest people read this Dracula work, with Jae Lee panels of art within.  He brings to life horror, at the same time as beauty.  Not an easy trick, and quite delicious.


Steve Niles has a hit franchise with 30 Days of Night comics, but he did some work with Jeff Mariotte to expand and contrast the fictional world of darkness.  These are at times as evocative as the comics, and are recommended. 


I remember when the first time I picked up Black Easter and the follow up.  I was horrified and quite naive to the world, oh so very long ago.  And then I came to the end of the first book, and I shivered.  It was genuinely that scary and icky.  Which is the mark of great writing.  So I began the next book, and it took forever to finish, because I didn't want to have it hit me like the previous work.

And just so the ghost of James Blish knows, you probably realize already, but, God is not dead.  So so not dead.



Frankenstein is a powerful work.  It is not horror, but people believe that it is.  It is a lesson upon the arrogance of humans, to think that they too could create life, in a fit of idolatry rather than recognize that life comes from and the secret is known only to God.  It is not a "Christian" or "Theistic" work, rather, it speaks in the language of the day and uses the power of myth to ask the question "what is life?".  The books below would be enough to send your mind into ambrosia if this is your interest area.



The next three books suggested are not for all audiences of horror.  They are long, drawn out, wordy works that mostly require a high level of interest or attention.  Phantom of the Opera is possibly based on a poor sucker who was misformed in the face.  The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is well written, about the dark side of men.  Have any of us really overcome it, and should we want to have done so?  The Hunchback of Notre Dame is an exercise in pain for some people I know.  It is different than any of the movies, Quasimodo isn't a happy guy even in the end, although he isn't tortured as much.  And the real theme is cruelty based upon difference, and trust and distrust due to appearance rather than the human heart.  Yes I liked it, but it is not an easy book. 



While my favorite monster is the Mummy, I cannot say that I've ever read or watched a movie about one that scared me, except for the Karloff movie, The Mummy.  I think they could be used well, and I don't assume any genre or subject to be bankrupt of potential.  But of the books and stories suggested below I'd suggest that the Anne Rice is the best one, and unless you are a person with an interest in the subject, (for me it comes from my love of Egypt and Ancient History in general) you might be better off finding one of many great National Geographic documentaries or books on the subject.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Tintin and the Fascists


One of my favorite comic book characters as a kid wasn't a mutant, didn't have super-powers and didn't wear spandex.   He did have weird hair, though.   He was Tintin, the intrepid boy reporter created by the Belgian cartoonist George Remi, better known by his pen name, Hergé.   Through much of the 20th Century he was an international super-star with his adventures translated into over a dozen languages.

Since the 1960s, some revisionist critics have called Hergé's hero an apologist for colonialism and a symbol of racist attitudes.   This is largely based on some of his earlier stories and do not take into account his development as a writer.   But what is not as well-known is that Hergé was actually arrested and imprisoned as a Nazi collaborator and that the defeat of the Germans in WWII almost ended his career.

Tintin a Nazi?   Well, not quite.   It's a little more complicated than that.

Hergé started out working as a draughtsman and jack-of-all-trades for a Catholic newspaper in Brussels called  Le XXe Siècle (“The Twentieth Century”).   The newspaper's director, Father Norbert Wallez, decided to begin publishing a supplement to the paper for young people, titled Le Petit Vingtième (“The Little Twentieth”) and commissioned Hergé to create a comic strip for the new magazine.   Hergé named his hero Tintin, and envisioned him as a young globe-trotting reporter.   As a lad, Hergé had been a boy scout, and he gave Tintin all the best qualities of a scout.

Le Petit Vingtième  was meant to be educational as well as entertaining, and since Father Wallez was strongly conservative in his politics, and he told Hergé to have his boy hero educate children about the evils of Communism.   The first Tintin story,”Tintin in the Land of the Soviets”, was largely based on an exposé of Bolshevism entitled “Moscou sans Voiles”    (“Moscow Unveiled”).

For his second adventure, Hergé wanted to send Tintin to America and do a story with cowboys and Indians; but Father Wallez insisted on another "educational" storyline.   This time Tintin went to Africa in order to justify the Belgian colony in the Congo.   “Tintin in the Congo”  was an embarrassment on several levels.   For one thing, the Belgian colony was exploitative and bloody even by the standards of other European colonies in Africa.   For another, Hergé was familiar with Africa only as it appeared in popular culture, and so he relied heavily on stereotypes.   (The Japanese cartoonist Osamu Tezuka had the same problem with his early work  “Jungle Emperor”/”Kimba the White Lion”; he only knew African natives from racist movies and cartoons).   Plus, Hergé wasn't really that interested in the subject matter, and his lack of enthusiasm shows.

Some years later, when the strips were reprinted in color albums, Hergé re-drew much of the art and tried to modify some of the more offensive bits.   For example, in one scene where Tintin is in a schoolhouse teaching the native children about  "de votre patrie: la Belgique"  ("our fatherland, Belgium"), the later version was altered so that he was giving a less controversial arithmetic lesson.   Didn't help much.   The story fell into disgrace during the de-colonization period of the '50s and '60s and quietly went out of print for many years.

Hergé himself later described the story this way:

'For the  Congo  as with  Tintin in the land of the Soviets, the fact was that I was fed on the prejudices of the bourgeois society in which I moved ... It was 1930.   I only knew things about these countries that people were relating at the time:   Africans were great big children ... Thank goodness for them that we were there!   Etc.   And I portrayed these Africans according to these criteria, in the purely paternalistic spirit which existed then in Belgium."
(--  Interviews with Hergé  by Numa Sadoul)

To put  Congo  in perspective, Tintin's next adventure took him to America where he finally got to encounter cowboys and Indians and where he battled Al Capone.   Cowboys, Indians and Gangsters; that pretty much summed up the view of America in European pop culture of that day.   From there he traveled to Egypt in  Cigars of the Pharaoh  where he trailed drug traffickers to India, which was also marred by some bad stereotypes, (such as a couple Hindu priests trying to sacrifice Tintin's dog Snowy to the goddess Kali!)

But here, Tintin came to an important turning point.   Hergé had announced at the end of  Cigars  that Tintin's next adventure would be in China.   He received a letter from a priest named Father Gosset, who was chaplain to the Chinese students at the University of Louvain.   He asked Hergé to be careful about what he said   about China and suggested that he do some research.   Father Gosset introduced him to a young Chinese art student named Chang Chong-Chen, who became close friends with Hergé and assisted him with the next adventure,  “The Blue Lotus”.   This story brought a new level of accuracy to Tintin, as well as respect and understanding of the people and culture of China.   Hergé even wrote Chang into the story as a boy Tintin befriends who becomes Tintin's -- and by extension the audience's -- guide to Chinese life.

Another thing Chang brought to the story was politics.   At the time, China was being invaded by the Japanese; and the Japanese invasion and occupation is an important element in the story.   An incident in the  The Blue Lotus  where Japanese soldiers blow up a rail line and use it an an excuse to invade, blaming the attack on bandits, was based on an actual incident on the Moukden railway.   Chang worked anti-Japanese slogans into many of the signs and bits of Chinese writing seen in the pages.

Hergé's next few adventures involved international intrigue as well.   “The Broken Ear”, set in a fictitious South American country, used elements taken from the Gran Chao War, a conflict between Paraguay and Bolivia over oil rights.   “King Ottokar's Sceptre”, set in the Ruritainian country of Syldavia was inspired by the  Anschluss, where Germany annexed Austria.

So in the 1930s, Tintin fought both the Japanese and expy-Nazis.   How then did he become associated with fascists?

Because about then, Germany invaded Belgium.   “Le XXe Siècle”  and  “Le Petit Vingtième” were shut down, and Hergé and Tintin found themselves without a home.   He found refuge in the newspaper  “Le Soir” (“The Evening”).

Working under Nazi occupation meant a lot of changes in the way Hergé worked.   Most significantly, it meant and end to the type of politically-inspired adventures he had been writing.   He had to abandon  “Tintin in the Land of Black Gold”, with its storyline about Mid-East tensions (and especially its German villain); he did not return to that one until after the War.   Instead, he turned to more fantastic adventures, looking for things that would not upset the Germans.   Whereas in  The Blue Lotus, the Japanese were depicted as invaders and enemies,  “The Crab with the Golden Claws”  featured a Japanese detective in a minor role as one of the good guys.

The Shooting Star”  is an almost Jules Vernesian science fiction story about an expedition to find a fallen meteor.   The team of scientists whom Tintin accompanies on the expedition is an international one, but tellingly, they all come from countries which are either German allies, like Italy, or neutral, like Sweden.   More significantly, the rival expedition racing against them to the meteor flies an American flag and is financed by a sinister banker named Blumenstein, drawn with stereotypical Jewish features.   Hergé later regretted the anti-semitism in the story and changed the villain's name to "Bohlwinkle", which he hoped would sound more harmless.  It didn't help much.

While working on  “The Seven Crystal Balls”, Hergé had a narrow escape.   He found an apparently vacant house on the edge of town which he decided to use as the model for villa in which the story takes place.   He spent the morning sketching the exterior.   Shortly after he and his assistant finished and left, two cars full of German soldiers pulled up.   The house had been requisitioned by the SS.   'If they had surprised us a few moments earlier while we were sketching, we would certainly have been closely questioned,' he later recalled.

Although he was never arrested by the Germans, after the War he was not so lucky.   Le Soir  had been a collaborationist newspaper under German control, and once the Germans were expelled, the Allied High Command issued an order banning journalists from working who had collaborated in the production of a newspaper under the Occupation.

Hergé was arrested after the war no fewer than four times, each time by a different service; each time having to face the possibility of a firing squad. He was fortunate; the Military Commissioner trying collaborationists refused to prosecute Tintin's papa, saying "But I would make myself ridiculous!"

Nevertheless, Hergé found himself unable to publish for two years, still under the ban and tainted by his association with the Occupation.   He spent this time re-drawing and adapting his older stories for reprint in England.   Then in 1946, publisher Raymond Leblanc provided the financial backing to start a new magazine, called appropriately enough,”Tintin”, to showcase the character.   Leblanc had been a Resistance fighter during the War, and so he also had the street cred to restore Hergé's reputation.

During the Post-war period Hergé wrote what are arguably some of the best of the Tintin adventures,  “Destination Moon”,  “The Calculus Affair”,  and  “Tintin in Tibet”.   He also oversaw revisions to his earlier stories for publication in color albums for the international market.   Here he cleaned up some of the more offensive elements of the older adventures.   Still, he couldn't always avoid charges of racism.   One of his post-war tales,  “Red Sea Sharks”, was inspired by reports he read about modern day slave trade in Africa.   Although his intent was to draw attention to a serious problem, he was criticized for having his native characters speaking in pidgin, and once again had to make revisions.

Much of the perceived racism and colonialism that can be found in Tintin's adventures, especially the early ones, can be blamed on ignorance rather than malice.
But was Hergé a collaborationist?  Strictly speaking, he was working for a Nazi propaganda outlet.  Yet apart from the one evil Jewish banker, I can't think of any points in Tintin's adventures during the Occupation where he used Tintin as a mouthpiece for Nazi ideology.

It's true that Tintin's failure to fight the Nazis, as he had the Japanese in “Blue Lotus” or the fascist Bourdurians in “King Ottokar's Sceptre” – his failure to mention the existence of the Nazis at all – can be taken as tacit support. But I'm not sure what alternatives Hergé had. Being a cartoonist without a publisher is a rather precarious position. I suppose he could have shut down his studio, fired his assistants and found honest work. Instead, he chose the path of least resistance, and I'm not sure if I could have done differently in his situation.

For what it's worth, Hergé's defenders argued that continuing to draw Tintin's adventures brought more joy to the children of Belgium during the dark days of the Occupation than it gave support to the Nazi regime.

In his final published adventure in 1976,  Tintin and the Picaros, Tintin had traded his traditional knickerbockers for jeans and had a "Peace" sign on his motorcycle helmet.   Even the ageless boy reporter managed to change with the times.






Sunday, September 4, 2016

I am a guest at FALL CON


I am happy to announce that I am a guest at Fall Con, located at the State Fairgrounds in Falcon Heights Minnesota on October 8th, from 10am to 6pm.

I am debuting two books this year, found HERE



I hope that you will stop in and buy something, say hi, rub my belly, or just enjoy yourself.



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Two Month Hiatus for me

In response to my previous entry to this blog, I am adding a similar one, but with a bit of writing about my situation first.  I am dealing with kidney stones, and issues with pain keeping me from sleeping.  While I used to be able to use these stretches without sleep with writing.  But at the moment when I am in so much pain I cannot sleep, I also cannot write.  Arthritis and aging go hand in hand, so, it isn't as if I can expect it to go away.   I have a couple of great doctors, so I am not in any way shape or form complaining about them.  Kidney stones and arthritis are mostly not fatal problems, but the pain associated with those situations is nearly impossible to deal with.  Celebrexx just doesn't reach it. 

So, as a result of my life and schedule disasters, I am taking a 2 month hiatus from entries here.  I will return, and I will likely still have the pain when I do.  But the hiatus will allow me to figure out how to arrange my schedule so I can write.

Books

I've continued to devour books in my attempt to educate my mind, and soul.  Albert Camus is the writer who helped me reach contentment with my purpose of life.  I had been dealing with issues with the amount of work I did/do and the relative little reward.  And Albert Camus illustrates how our world is absurd, and that by our understanding of it might fail, but our finding purpose will come with our recognizing that our labors and doing what is right making our own existence worthy.  I needed that, and dealing with various people it allows me to not judge them, that is, our world is absurd, and seemingly a puzzle, but by our own hand we can make it have purpose.  So not everyone has arrived in that place to understand.


Ovid, Roman master poet, Algernon Blackwood UK resident horror writer, Arthur Machen was a Welshman interested in things from a different realm, and William Hope Hodgson was a UK writer who wrote in the genre of Weird Fiction.  All four of these gentleman wrote in ways that cause me to grow, and I deeply appreciate their talents.


And while I've read him before, Brian Lumley's Necroscope scares the shit out of me.  I can't help that I scream like a little girl and wet my pants in the first sign of danger.


Games

Gamma World and Star Frontiers are both examples of table top RPGs where the player isn't playing in a Tolkienesque world.  I point them out because each game has strengths that can be utilized for telling stories that are outside of the norm.  Players may or may not "get it", science fiction games need a strong background and essence of reality, without which it won't work.  My only real point is that playing in such a world or considering it can lead to great, unrealized stories, either written in the gaming dialogue between players and GM, or to inspire and result with great new works on paper.


Comics

I try not to push my favorite comics as much as I have in the past.  The reason isn't that I am struggling or unwilling, it is that I am aware that my taste is not necessarily anyone else's taste.


Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen is continuously entertaining, well written, and fun.

I plan to reread, during the hiatus some of the great Grant Morrison works in the world of comics. 


Music

A couple people wrote to ask regarding my previous entry what young loud bands am I enjoying.  And while there are many, We Are The Ocean, We Are The Fallen, and Deaf Havana are currently at the top of my listening list.   They each have strengths and weaknesses, so I am enjoying the tour.


Video Games

I said that I don't really play video games, and that is mostly true.  But these are my four favorites.  I could Pod Race all day long though, I loved that game.


Movie

Every summer I watch many different Samurai films.  My favorite is Seven Samurai, and I've studied it in detail and still come away from my viewing having learned or gained from it.  It continues to pay a great a harvest.