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Proposal proposal

I am a fan of things left unfinished. Half-cooked ideas or failed projects hold a certain place in my two sizes too small heart. I gained much delight from Mark Osbaldeston’s book, Unbuilt Toronto: A History of the City That Might Have Been. Coleridge’s unfinished fever dream “Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment,” has always been a source of inspiration. Coleridge described himself as “indolence capable of energies.” Perhaps this is an apt description of why some poems are left unfinished and some buildings are left on paper, but it is certainly not the sole reason.

Indeed, the myriad of reasons, some would say excuses, that surround unfinished projects are sometimes as interesting as the proposed idea. Take for example Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe’s, Lost in La Mancha, which looks at Terry Gilliam’s failed attempt to adapt Don Quixote. Fictional narratives have also been produced about such glorious failures to fulfill a project. Fellini’s, and Kaufman’s, Synecdoche, New York immediately spring to mind. But I would like to plumb the depths of a more “low brow” form of failure: the Television pilot.

Don't go chasing windmills, stick to the...

Television pilots are an interesting industry. They are a calculated stab in the dark. Michael Cera and Clark Duke and, famously, Seinfeld have depicted the trials and tribulations of getting a pilot made, or a project launched. But what I would love to see are the pilots themselves. I am talking about those great and glorious failures of the small screen that never had a chance. Basically, everything found on this site. And those were just from ABC! Imagine the goldmine of hilarious, bizarre, and maybe, just maybe, grand failures that lie in the slush piles of the major networks. I say we resurrect these valiant mistakes from their VHS graveyards, and see what we were missing as we watched 10 seasons of friends. 10!

Ready to pitch in any elevator, anywhere, your

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Sometimes it is fun to destroy books

grangerize

PRONUNCIATION:

(GRAYN-juh-ryz)

MEANING:

verb tr.:
1. To mutilate a book by clipping pictures out of it.
2. To illustrate a book by adding pictures cut from other books.

ETYMOLOGY:

After James Granger (1723-1776), an English clergyman whose Biographical History of England had blank leaves for illustrations, to be filled with pictures, clippings, etc. by the reader.

Definition from Word.A.Day http://wordsmith.org/awad/

Grangerized magazines and books are an extremely odd and interesting phenomenon; therefore, there should be a book about them! I would love to have a coffee table sized book full of torn up, rearranged, DIY-ed magazines that feature idiosyncratic marginalia and doodles. Who hasn’t opened a used textbook and revelled at all the notes, both academic and romantic, that surround those boring graphs and figures?

I first came across the value of grangerized magazines while reading the blog of the incredibly talented and hilarious cartoonist, Michael Kupperman. Kupperman’s blog features his “What’s his name?” collection, which is a collection of pulpy magazines that have been rearranged in odd, inexplicable, and compelling ways. The collection is somewhere between lunacy and brilliance, and is akin to the work of outsider artist Henry Darger.

There must be more collections like this, and along with the myriad of romantically marked textbooks, books of poetry, cookbooks, etc. out there I think a coffee table book of grangerized texts would be a great showpiece.

Moreover, there is a market for such curios. Found Magazine and Ubu web relish in this kind of “found” or outsider art. Grocery lists and street flyers are their stock and trade. I want old copies of Dime Detectives, Time, and Shakespeare’s Sonnets filled with critiques, insights, and carefully drawn hearts with names in them.

Weeping into the pages of his old textbooks,

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COMIC BOOKS LOVE THE IPAD TOO

I have been thinking a lot lately about the poorly named ipad and other e-readers, tablets, kindles, etc. etc. Specifically I have been thinking about how they might change two of my favourite things: magazines and comics. The former I will tackle another day, but the latter has got me excited.

A few days ago Amazon.com had a pricing glitch that discounted Marvel hardcover comics collections by up to 90%. Comics that were once $100 were suddenly eight. Needless to say, Twilight was knocked from its perch as comics ran the list of bestsellers. Many people, including comics blogger Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool, thought that this run on cheap funnies and super heroics proved that comics are too expensive and, given the right price, they would sell by the truckload. Perhaps this is true, but what it did was get me thinking about cost effective ways to deliver four-coloured content in an interesting manner. The answer of course is that tree of knowledge, Apple.

Marvel and Darkhorse, among others, have already jumped onto the digital subscription bandwagon. But what I would like to see is an itunes like service and price system for comics. One such program is Longbox with has already signed deals with midsized publishers Top Cow and BOOM! Studios. However, what I would like is to the digital comic become the arena of independent comics and user driven content. As a fan of anthologies, specifically of the horror variety (think Eerie, Creepy, and EC Comics), I think it would be great if there was a comics anthology in which you choose the content. In this system, a user would choose from several short comics of four to six pages, which they can buy individually or in bundles. They would then arrange the comics as they saw fit producing their own anthology. They would be given the option to name it, and the more artistic and creative of the bunch, could draw the cover or perhaps their own comic to add to the collection. It would be like producing a mix tape or, for those of you not so enamoured with analog, a play list.

The world needs more of this

Once a user has produced a comics anthology, they could repost their choices and how they ordered them on a dedicated website or apps store.  For example, let’s say DC comics decides to revive their collection The Witching Hour in this digital manner they would have an instant community of interested followers, which in turn, would produce others. Moreover, this does not have to apply exclusively to horror comics. Alternative or lesser known artists and writers could get their starts in this digital anthology format. It would be cheaper and therefore less of a risk for the larger companies. If they take advantage of the medium with interactive panels, sound, video, and flashy advertising, they could become very profitable as well.

And maybe, just maybe they will also release a glorious print version if it becomes popular, because although I love technology, I do love those book machines.

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DOC OR BOOK PITCH: CAKE SKATE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GEORGE BARRACUDA

I am a sucker for cake or pastry centric television. My favourite by far is Ace of Cakes. Chef Duff and his bevy of attractive indie-credible cake artists makes me swoon. I love the combination of DIY rebellion and well-practised craftsmanship. Therefore, when I read an article in the Skate / Culture / Art / Lifestyle magazine, Color about a former professional skater turned French trained cake chef I was enthralled.

TOO RAD!

The article focuses on George Barracuda one of the first pro-skaters and the inventor of the incredibly complex aerial manoeuvre, the aptly named, “Barracudair.” Barracuda was living the dream as a pro until his career was cut short by a brutal accident in 1982 that destroyed his knee. He has walked with cane ever since.

Barracuda did what any young skater would do after a career ending accident: he sold skate parts to finance a move to France and an education at L’Ecole du Gateux, a famous cake-baking school outside Toulouse. As you can see George isn’t your average sports story. He now owns a cake slash skate shop in Vancouver called, well of course it’s called, Cake Skate.

80s THRASH

Trucks and boards sit next to exquisitely baked confection. Barracuda’s story and store are surreal and great fodder for a documentary. The documentary could be accompanied with a biography that is one part skate mag and one part cook book. Blend this ingredients together and let sit, and you get one rad media experience.

And what’s the best part? George is endlessly quotable. Here he is talking about the pitfalls of fame and professional boarding:

It’s funny what can happen while napping on that crooked bed of glory, waiting for the savage ritual of time to pull the sheets from under us. At some point though, you awaken from the illusion, realize the wave has crashed over you, and you are adrift in a sea of disposable icons. (from Color Magazine 7.5)

Incredible. That is skate poetics if you ask me. Barracuda’s story is like Ace of Cakes meets The Wrestler, sadness tempered with surrealism, and great lines like this: “Truth is nobody wants to pay for cake anymore. Not a real cake anyway. Not gâteux” (Color Magazine 7.5).

THIS...

PLUS THIS = AWESOME!

Stay gnarly,

BIG FUN BLOGGER

COMIC PITCH: THE PLAYS OF ARCH OBOLER OR HOW I LEARNED TO LOVE THE CRAZY

“It…is…later…than…you…think.”

And so began the radio show Lights Out, which ran from 1934 until 1947 when it made its transition to television. Radio shows are truly a forgotten art, and I am not sure why. I have satellite radio in my car and old time radio programs can make bumper to bumper traffic bearable. Hardboiled P.I.’s and femme fatales exchange barbed remarks, moon people ready for invasion, and horrific, fantastical scenes are played out on Lights Out.

Arch being spooky!

If radio shows  are a forgotten art, then Arch Oboler’s run as head writer and creative force on Lights Out is radio’s lost masterpiece. Lights Out’s tales of horror and the supernatural set the stage for other radio dramas such as Inner Sanctum, Suspense, and Escape; it also inspired comic books such as EC’s Tales from the Crypt, Eerie, and The Witching Hour; and directly inspired television series such as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and The X-Files. Without the colossal talent of Arch Oboler these programs and comics would never have existed.

Without Arch there would be no X-Files slash fiction. "Scratchy beard!"

Some of Oboler’s most famous plays include “Catwife” where a man is driven insane by his wife’s feline metamorphosis and “Chicken Heart where the eponymous organ grows so big it threatens to engulf the whole world! Were these plays ridiculous fantasy? Perhaps, but they were also wildly inventive entertainment. Take for example, my favourite play, “The Author and the Thing.” In this episode, Oboler (being post-modern before everything was post-modern) plays himself struggling to write a play for Lights Out. He imagines a demon, which only he can see and soon it is devouring his family and friends. He is eventually deemed insane and, needless to say, that particular episode is left unfinished. Delightfully ghastly, I must say.

So, why has there never been a book about this wildly talented and eccentric writer? And why have his plays never been collected?

What I propose is an anthology of some of his best and most famous plays from Lights Out and Arch Oboler’s Plays (a later series, which is just as much fun as Lights Out) collected in comic book form. Radio plays, and screen plays, can very easily be converted into the comic book format. The book would capitalise on the resurgence in popularity of horror based titles. This trend is exemplified by DC/Vertigo’s re-launch of House of Mystery, Dark Horse’s reprints and re-launch of Eerie and Creepy magazines, and Fantagraphics soon to be released, Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950’s.

Now, if you are a regular reader of this blog (bless you!), you may remember I ranted about repurposing old material. Well phooey. Oboler deserves another look and I think the comics format would be perfect. The book would be a melange of old and new comics artists, veterans such as Bernie Wrightson, new comers like Doug Mahnke, and even indie superstar and horror maestro, Charles Burns.

Bernie Wrightson drawing spooky!

The series could be released serially and then collected in a graphic novel format. It could include biographical tidbits about Oboler, reprints of his scripts, archival photos, et cetera. The man had an incredibly interesting and at times tragic life (his son drowned in his Frank Lloyd Wright designed home, which was also the set of a horror movie he directed!).

Oboler’s plays need to be revived and what better way than what bpNichol called “one of the first original art forms of the 20th century: the comic strip.” Oboler’s wild fantasies will appeal to anyone who likes a little crazy with their madness.

Wishing you a spooky goodnight,

BIG FUN BLOGGER

My house being spooky!

Book Pitch: Seasonal Shift

Last year I took a drive to the bucolic King City, which is just above Toronto. I went there with a mission: to see millions of dollars worth of art. How did I do it? I snuck onto a farmer’s field; ignoring every private property and trespassing sign around. Why risk fines and potentially well-placed buckshot?  I did it because that farmer’s field is an outdoor gallery housing one of Richard Serra’s earliest pieces.  Oh, and I thought it would make a great book.

So what’s all this illegal trespassing fuss about, and who is Richard Serra? Richard Serra is a world-renowned sculptor whose monumental pieces are worth millions of dollars. However, one of his earliest and most significant works, Shift (1970-1972), is wasting away in King City. Shift is an undulating wall made up of concrete wall-like sections that fall and rise with the contours of the field. It is like the fossil remains of some kind of prehistoric beast, but what it really represents is two individuals separate paths through the field. Some folks leave breadcrumbs to mark their way, Richard Serra leaves tons of concrete.

A piece of SHIFT

But seriously, viewing shift is an experience. It makes you rethink your relationship with space. What’s more you can walk on it, climb up it, and touch it. When was the last time you did that at MOMA? I really want to make this piece known, because it is not only stunning, but it is also endangered. Shift has consistently been under the threat of being destroyed due to urban sprawl.

Here's an idea of the scale of the piece

I want to do a book that will be a visual tour of this remote and forgotten treasure of Canadian monumental art. The book I have in mind will be titled Seasonal Shift and will be equal parts art catalogue and coffee table book. Seasonal Shift will be divided into five chapters or sections. The first chapter will be a brief history of the creation of Shift. The final four chapters will correspond to the four seasons in this order: Spring, summer, fall, and winter. With its large size and full colour photographs, Seasonal Shift will be a book about an impressive piece of art and it will be an impressive piece of art itself.

The opening chapter will expound upon Shift’s unique beginnings and its relation to Serra’s later work. This chapter will culminate with the revelation that Shift is in jeopardy of being destroyed by urban sprawl. I believe that King City Councilman Cleve N. Mortelliti would be an excellent choice to write on this final point. Mortelliti’s article, “King City: Environment Art Work Revealed” is already an excellent analysis of the plights facing Shift. Mortelliti’s article is about his personal relationship with Shift, but it also points to how Shift and other monumental earthworks can be pivotal in creating a new kind of green urban planning. This green mindset would make the book attractive to readers interested in the global green and conservation movements, but it would also attract readers who are more locally minded. Readers who purchased books like Coach House Book’s GreenTOpia would be ideal readers for Seasonal Shift.

For the task of documenting Shift’s history and its changing beauties and nuances, my dream pick would be the art critic for the New York Times, Robert Hughes. Hughes is a famous and influential art critic, but he also did an excellent article in 2005 for The Guardian on Serra’s, The Matter of Time. This article, which was titled “The Man of Steel,” demonstrates how Hughes’ perspicacity and evocative imagery are both easily accessible and inspiring. He would ably illuminate Shift and its surrounding landscape for readers both familiar and unfamiliar with Serra’s work and the Ontarian landscape.

Over the course of the four seasonal chapters, Hughes and a photographer will document Shift as it and the bucolic landscape experience the changing seasons. The author’s journeys to the isolated Shift will be integral to the book. His observations will serve as a travel narrative and an art review, which will be accentuated by large photographs of the piece. Through a synthesis of image and text, the readers will feel as though they have shared in the experience of visiting the remote piece of sculpture.

Me looking shifty on...I can't do it

Seasonal Shift is a book for a variety of readers. As previously mentioned, Seasonal Shift will appeal to those interested in the intersections between urban planning, the environment, and art. It is parochial, because it pertains to a small Canadian township; but it is also international, because it centers on an art superstar. Seasonal Shift will appeal to the casual art fan, as well as the dedicated Serra scholar. It will also appeal to those interested in the Ontarian/Canadian landscape and its history; for example, readers who recently bought Mark Osbaldeston’s, Unbuilt Toronto may be interested in a book about neighbouring King City’s multimillion-dollar treasure. Moreover, the book could be tied into a short documentary, lecture series, or even tours of the site (this time legal tours), which could act as promotional tools.

Shift is an untapped gem in the world of Canadian and international art. It is a shame that most people don’t know about it.

Hoping the King City PD don’t read my blog,

BIG FUN BLOGGER

This would make a great book, movie, comic, etc.

Why are there so many remakes, rehashes, reinterpretations, and remixes in the entertainment industry? Are the powers that be obsessed with a prefix or have they merely run out of ideas. I mean they brought Leno back for crying out loud! (See previous post-Ed.).

Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand it anymore. Time for some new ideas, some ideation, if you like. I am constantly thinking of premises, pilots, and pitches. And, by golly, some of them just might be good.

Like this idea for a book or movie.

Edward Trelawny was a curious fellow. He is alternately described as a biographer, an adventurer, and sometimes a liar. He was born in either Cornwall or London, England in 1792 and had what he described as a “miserable childhood” there.  But the real excitement starts in 1819. It was in this year, after a failed stint in the navy and a failed go at marriage, that Trelawny met Lord Byron and Percy Shelley.

Now if you don’t know who those last fellows are, I suppose you might not be interested in this pitch, but it is more than likely that you do. Regardless, here’s a refresher: Byron and Shelley are members of the Big Six romantic poets (the other four are Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats). Their poetry is stunning and studied in every respectable academic institution. However, they are just as famous for their lives as they are for their lyrics. If there were paparazzo in the 18th century they were following Byron and Shelley. Both men were accused of licentiousness and deemed reprobate; scandal followed them like a lost dog. They were under the watch of the English government for a variety of reasons, most involved being in the wrong bed, but many were because of their radical religious and political views. Did I mention their stay at the Villa Diodati (the one time residence of another poetic giant: Milton) and the ghost story competition that spawned Frankenstein and Vampyre?

Needless to say, Byron and Shelley are giants of English Literature, and they are giant characters. They have stories worthy of several films and books (like the Julian Sands film Gothic, and Roger Corman’s super weird Frankenstein Unbound, and a myriad of books). However, Edward Trelawny is left out of these accounts, but his story is just as interesting.

Trelawny was known to be an outlandish, and dedicated member of Byron and Shelley’s Pisan Circle of friends, and he eventually became a noted biographer of this circle. However, nothing could have prepared them for his actions at Shelley’s funeral. Shelley drowned in 1822 at the age of 29 after an ill-fated sailing trip. There is, and was, a large amount of speculation and hearsay regarding this event. One story states that Shelley was “rubbed out” by English government operatives, others claim that Shelley and his friends swear they saw his doppelganger, an omen of death, days before he died. Regardless of the cause, Shelley’s death was truly romantic in fashion: he died battling the sea with a copy of Keats’ poems in his jacket.

His funeral was an equally romantic affair. His body had been discovered some days after the accident and was unsuitable for burial, so Shelley was burned on a funeral pyre on a beach. Byron was so moved by the scene  that he had to retire to his coach; Trelawny had a different reaction: he ripped Shelley’s heart out of the fire. Yes, that’s right, he ripped out his heart. That is dedication to a literary legacy.

But what happened to that heart? Did Trelawny keep it and preserver it? And it gets weirder. A short time after Shelley’s death, Trelawny went on to fight along side Byron and the Greeks in Turkey, and when Trelawny heard of Byron’s death in 1824, he was the first to attend to his remains. So, Trelawny is now two-for-two in terms of poets’ corpses. Moreover, Shelley was 29 and Byron was 36 when they died, Trelawny lived to 88! The average life expectancy was 50! To add to the moribund fascination surrounding these pillars of poetry, Trelawny’s ashes were buried next to Shelley’s plot, a plot that he had purchased for him. Can one stalk another person in the afterlife? My answer is perhaps.

A movie could tell this odd tale verbatim, however, it could also speculate just what Trelawny’s motives were in collecting his friends remains.  Did he do it out of a sense of worship or duty, like a medieval reliquary, or was it for something more sinister. The movie could be ambivalent about this, or more biased. It could delve into the supernatural or even fantastical b-movie and horror movie territories (maybe the key to Trelawny’s lifespan was his taste for his friends’ flesh. Cue spooky music and wild cackle). Either way Trelawny’s tale should be told. And entertainment, like the heart of a poet, should not be reheated.

Verily yours,

BIG FUN BLOGGER