Sunday, October 22, 2006

the taste of... Ireland?

On Friday eve the diminutive one and myself set out to scavenge something to eat after a long day on the road. Shortly before we arrived at our hotel we passed by an Irish pub which seemed to hold a great deal of promise. Sure the outer decor did have an Epcot-y Its a Small World Ireland After All sense of style about it but the parking lot was packed and live music was on the night's bill. After checking in to our room we made our back to the pub which shall remain nameless to protect the good name of the many hard working innocents (busboys and the like) who just happen to be caught up in this bizarre dining experience.

Through the main entrance of the adjacent Irish Lodge our ears were assaulted by quite a din. We would have no trouble finding our way to the dining area. On the way we passed through an Irish library which was in lockstep with the rest of the establishment for despite ample posters of prominent literary figures from the Emerald Isle there was very little Irish literature in the Irish Library. However there were a great many young women harrumphing on armchairs waiting for tables. These women were required to have at least one of the following accoutrement: A bad dye job, a squealing menagerie of children, a fawning businessmanhusbandfiance on vacation who would periodically stomp out of thew room and 'Go see how much longer this infuriating wait will be.' Its strange what a pouted lip and eye-lash flutter can acheive when properly delivered.

Wandering inside the pub proper I gave our names to the server whose Irish accent caused Croft's eyebrow of disapproval to reach unprecedented heights. A 15 minute weight quickly devolved into a half hour as a trio of scantily clad teens ascended a stage-like area toward the front of the Pub. Every creepy drunk old man's eye was instantly focused in one direction. Every sober-minded middle aged woman's eyes shifted left and right as if saying 'are you sure this is legal?' Tinny electronic music with Irish flavoring (thats the best i can do to describe what was pumping out of hidden speakers--some unholy marriage of Irish folk fiddle with a thumping house bass-beat) sent the girls Lolita legs a twirling. As everyone seated at a table was now anchored in place Croft and I hunkered down for the long haul.

As luck would have it we were seated just after the Nymphets left the stage briefly to put on their quote, 'hard shoes.' Our table was in a dark corner, mercifully without a direct view of the stage, something i thanked the numerous incarnations of the One True God, Jehovah, Allah, Jesus, the whole gang. With a black and tan and brown bread in the near future things were looking up. That is until the Nymphets finished and began trolling the tables for tips. There was a large Last Supper style table to our left with a preposterous amount of drunken dads and bored 6 year olds. The nymphets saw their mark. "Ask the girls to dance for us Bobby," one of the drunk dads said in that skin-flayingly sweet high-pitched voice that parents use on their children when they want them to do something. You have no idea how badly i wanted Bobby to respond in an icy english accent, "Father, quit being so patronizing and ask the Jailbait yourself!"

Instantly thunderous hooves pounded the hardwood and our Croftian conversation was obliterated. I turned my head to see what the Hell was happening and found a ridiculously short skirt flailing inches from my face. Blushing I turned back and prayed this would be over soon. Middle aged drunk wife exclaimed "They didn't give you guys a lap-dance... they gave you a tap-dance!," braying donkey-like laughter while knocking over candles and igniting alcohol soaked husbands who fell out of their chairs and crushed their over-weight children to death. Okay, so i merely imagined averything after the donkey-like laughter but a man can dream can't he? It was unbelievable how readily everyone accepted what was going on as explicitly sexual but didn't seem to care that these girls were still a few years away from a driver's liscense let alone 18.

When our burgers arrived a folk singer replaced the Nymphets and played competent versions of the old Irish standards, "Piano Man," "Tiny Dancer," and "American Pie." The place cleared out pretty quick. We followed suit shortly thereafter receiving a hearty "Tank you" from the server. Croftierolled her eyes on that perfect coff. Safe and warm back in the Jeep (Snow was in the forcast) all we could do was stare at each other and laugh. Looking back I cannot separate reality from Circe chapter of Ulysses brand hallucinogenic dream world theme park grotesquery. And that Joycean nod was about the extent of the Irishness of the evening.

Monday, October 16, 2006

comic book vertigo

The past month or so has been a comic fan's Xanadu. Sure the academics will call them 'graphic novels' but that nomenclature strikes me as an artifical inflation of 'lowly' status of comic art. After all it wasn't so long ago that the novel itself was the bargain basement in textual consumption. The point is comics don't need the added pat on the back. A good comic is as remarkable as a good novel (or a good film, or painting, etc.). And as I mentioned at the top of the page the past month has seen quite a few major releases by the comic art industry's most talented writers.

Many of these releases are getting deluxe treatment in packaging and design. If the recent popularity of comic art in the Academe has done nothing else it has proven to the industry that people are willing to pay an extra bit of cash for something that is executed well. Comics are no longer just pretty to look at, they are being manufactured to last, in hardcover cloth editions, why the damn things have dust jackets!

The first work I'll mention was written by Brian K Vaughan, most well known for his work on the Marvel Comics' series Runaways and the Vertigo line Y: The Last Man. The title in question is entitled Pride of Baghdad. In the comic biz, when a single issue is released which stands alone and does not pertain to any on-going series it is called a 'one-shot'. Pride is a hardcover deluxe 'one-shot' detailing the travails of a pride of lions which escape from the ruins of the Baghdad Zoo shortly following US bombardment. The story is a mix of Kipling-like fable story structure where the main characters are all animals. Yet the story has much in common with the social satire found in say, Orwell's Animal Farm. It is a bold literary statement upon the on-going war in Iraq--something we could all use a few more doses of.

The second collection I'd like to discuss is an old story rereleased in a super deluxe comic-art-ophile's X-mas present of choice. Absolute Sandman Volume 1 is a tribute to writer Neil Gaiman's groundbreaking work in the early 90s with the titular figure the Sandman. I have quite a bit of personal affection for the series as it single handedly re-launched my interest in comic art, something my girlfriend may hold against Gaiman, but to whom I am Endlessly thankful. Okay so Frank Miller's work on Batman in the late 80's also played a part, but Gaiman proved to me that comics could simultaneously be dark, raw, knowledgable, lyrical, and incredibly well written. "A Game of You" may be my favorite comic story arc ever, and the Sandman's portrayal of Lucifer will be with me always.

Lastly, but not least-ly comes the current king of the comic world, Bill Willingham. Fables has been my favorite on-going series for well over a year to the point where I've done something I never thought I'd do, I've started to collect single issues. I've scrapped together well over half of the 50 plus issues as well as purchased the trade paper collections. Now Vertigo is releasing a 'one-shot' trade paper of original material not found in the single issues which preceed the story he's created. 1001 Nights of Snowfall comes out this week (Mid october if you are reading this somewhat later) and to say I'm eagerly anticpating it would be an understatement.

Now if I could only find a means to pay for all this...