Dan Dactyl and the Mad Jungle Doctor

Dan Dactyl
Available on my homepage: A 95-frame black and white comic strip that traces the adventures of adventurer Dan Dactyl and his pals as they explore the South American jungles in search of the mysterious French poet Doctor Verlaine.

In late 2000 I began experimenting with cartoon narratives. My drawing skills are primitive, so I searched for raw material which I could adapt. I settled on a one-volume compilation of daily comic strips (1 June 1945 to 16 May 1946) featuring “Johnny Hazard”, written and illustrated by Frank Robbins [see note]. The volume is 60 pages long; the material I purloined came to 12 pages. I threw away the original story with its dialogue (a tangled Second World War tale of fighting the Japanese and later the Vichy French in the tropics) and constructed my own story with new dialogue. I also chose the panels I needed from different places in the original volume, and altered all of the drawings with an image-editing program. The result has nothing in it of the original save the brilliant chiaroscuro ink drawings of the original artist, Frank Robbins, and a handful of the characters — their appearance, but not their names, identities, relationships or dialogue, all of which I reinvented.

Paul Muldoon: the cuffs!


So what do you think of Irish poet Paul Muldoon, migrant to the USA, teacher of Creative Writing, and poetry editor of a weekly journal, flaunting cuffs whiter than his hosts’ teeth (tactical error!) on a visit to Washington to mingle with the crème de la crème of the political shark pool? For some strange reason this photo opportunity reminds me of my poem “The Duck Abandons Hollywood” (the poem is related to Ashbery’s “Daffy Duck in Hollywood”, though distantly, and the title is meant to remind you of the title of Cavafy’s poem “The God Abandons Antony”, though the poem is largely borrowed from — I think — Wordsworth’s “Daffodils”) as follows:

I flew my long uphill glide to immortality
solo, on flammable celluloid. O idle frenzy,
stockpiling cans of cartoons – and what splashy
comeback glitters next week? Fat chance!
this taunt from a gaggle of my dusky betters
dabbling around the lagoon – better? because
more ‘natural’! My siblings babbling scuttlebutt –
me, guilty? of what betrayal? Human gestures
dignify my tribe, those phantoms in the chalky beam
heal while they gyp and flim-flam. Past tense! –
yes, radical as any Method stratagem, my hackery
deified suburban angst, bum gigs, tantrums.
Steering thus through fits and suffering,
I grew complex – a troubadour could not but be
bisexual, I reckon, in such a wiggle rig. Vain
fakery, stars mutter, swapping their knacks
back and forth amid the smoke and buzz in Lindy’s.
I’m still chipper – no, those soul-sisters flapped
and cackled in my bad dream; they damned me, then
gulped their bubbly gush, and giggled – puzzling mirth…

I’m a chronic dope, sure thing, fondling this enigmatic image – oh, whacked out in my den I drivel, in spent or flaky vein. Up there my horrid flocks dis­robe upon that indifferent retina which is the paradise of quarantine – what’s each verbal mouthful worth, what are dreams patched up from – water-colours in a box? And when I tally up what booty this greed for godhood got me – numbers flicker, blank screen – my feathered bulk chokes on misery, and nods off with the spirits – mayhap in our 3-D Cinerama Hunting-Ground we’ll reminisce and chortle – crystal spirits in a jug of hooch.

Bucky Works


R. Buckminster Fuller called himself “the world’s most successful failure”. He hardly slept, and he drove himself like a steam engine from 1927, when he was in his early thirties, until his death at the age of nearly ninety. His patient and long-suffering wife died the next day.
In his youth he dropped out of university (he didn’t ever take a degree) but in his old age he was showered with honorary doctorates, and left behind a string of complicated patents and an archive full of drawings, plans and notes that weighed forty-four tonnes.
He coined the phrase “Spaceship Earth”. He wrote dozens of books and gave hundreds of lectures, many of which lasted ten or more hours. Generations of young people became enthusiastic converts to his belief in the need to build a better world.
He was charismatic, sly, pig-headed, and, in the view of many, as crazy as a loon.

Continue reading “Bucky Works”

The Carbon Transfer Process

Frida Kahlo with Olmeca figurine, Coyoacan, 1939.

Sandy King has an extraordinarily detailed article about the carbon transfer process on the «Alternative Photography» site [here], including a historical survey, detailed instructions for mixing your own chemicals, process notes and tons of references. The process itself is painstaking and suitable only for dedicated obsessives. But the results are awesome.

The negative (sorry, the diapositive) from which the color carbon print of Frida Kahlo was made was taken in 1939. Artist: Nickolas Muray. A rough guess: the negative was an 8 by 10 inch Kodachrome. Kodachrome Professional film was supplied in 8×10 inch sheets with a very, very slow speed of ASA 8 (yes, eight, for daylight illumination) and ASA 10 for Type B (tungsten bulb, used indoors). For more work by this and other artists, see the Art and Soul site [here].

Continue reading “The Carbon Transfer Process”

Just what you need to check out a poetry reading

A news item from C|Net:

“As machines that let first responders look at dangerous objects become increasingly common, Novatiq has started producing a throwable recon robot with the relatively low price tag of roughly $11,300. The military-grade Scorp was announced last year with slightly different specs. At 13 inches long and 7.7 pounds, it’s compact and light enough for backpack portability.

“It’s also tough enough to be thrown into buildings and dangerous areas, just like the lighter 110 FirstLook from iRobot. The spybot can supply a 360-degree real-time video feed. Both machines are remote-operated, roll on treads, and have flippers that enable them to climb stairs, train tracks, and other obstacles. Both can move around for up to six hours on a battery charge. The Scorp can roll at up to 5 mph and receive commands from its wearable controller up to a distance of 1,650 feet. If it loses touch with the signal, it will automatically backtrack until it’s reestablished. The spybot has a tilt camera on each side, can relay real-time 360-degree video, and can be fitted with various sensors and a robotic arm. It can also carry payloads of up to 6 pounds, according to Switzerland-based Novatiq.”

Just what you need to check out a poetry reading you might be thinking of attending: is it really worth it? Are there any crazy poets in there? Is anyone smoking dope?
(Photo Credit: Novatiq)

Photograph Copyright Infringement in the UK

Justin Fielder's copyright in his image (top) was deemed to have been infringed by Nick Houghton's image (bottom).
Justin Fielder's copyright in his image (top) was deemed to have been infringed by Nick Houghton's image (bottom).
Digital Photography Review notes that «Amateur Photographer» magazine has published an interesting story about a copyright infringement case of similar, but not directly copied, images. “The issue of copyright is thorny, contentious and often misunderstood but this case sheds some light on the current attitude of courts in the UK,” writes «DPReview». “Despite significant differences between the two images (there was no implication that the second image was a duplicate of the first), the court found that the second image copied substantially from the ‘intellectual creation’ of the first (that is the elements that can be protected by copyright in the original image, including a consideration of the composition, lighting and processing of the image). «Amateur Photographer» quotes photographic copyright expert Charles Swan as saying: ‘The judgement should be studied by anyone imitating an existing photograph or commissioning a photograph based on a similar photograph.’

Meanwhile, Jane Lambert – a barrister specialising in intellectual property law – has written an excellent blog post on the case, in which she concludes ‘although I follow the logic I feel very uneasy at Judge Birss’s decision in Temple Island. It seems to come very close to protecting copyright in an idea as opposed to expression.’

John Frederick Kensett

Beacon Rock, Newport Harbor 1857, by John Frederick Kensett

Australia Day

Today, 26 January, is “Australia Day”, commemorating the day in 1788 when the British Royal Navy invaded what was wrongly deemed to be a largely uninhabited continent and set up a colony as a dumping ground for Britain’s unwanted convicts. There were thousands of them, and the American Revolutionary War had closed off Britain’s North American colonies as a convict dumping ground. Another possibility was Das Voltas Bay, on the south-west coast of Africa, but the sloop Nautilus which they sent out to check the site’s suitability returned with the news that there was “no bay, river or inlet, but only a step barren rocky shoreline… without… a drop of fresh water or… a tree…” according to Andrew Tink, Lord Sydney’s biographer. It looked as though any convicts sent there would not survive long, and you didn’t want to actually kill your convicts; they were more useful working in the fields. So they tried Australia, the Great South Land.

The first settlement, at Sydney, consisted of about 800 convicts and their Marine guards and officers, led by Governor Arthur Phillip. They arrived at Botany Bay in the “First Fleet” of 9 transport ships accompanied by 2 small warships, in January, 1788, then moved to the more suitable Sydney Cove in Port Jackson (on Sydney Harbour) on January 26. That’s why I am here today, in Sydney, writing this journal entry.

Flogging a convict Years ago Margaret Jones, the literary editor of the «Sydney Morning Herald», asked me to write a poem for the front of the paper on a forthcoming Australia Day. “Mention the Harbour,” she said. “A bit of history, a generally positive note, not too long. We can offer a hundred dollars.” How could I refuse? I set to work, and as the day wore on and I revised and revised, my poem “Australia Day” grew uglier and uglier: by dinner time it was full of crooked cops, bent businessmen, tax avoidance schemes, a gangland murder, and lot of cooked prawns. Australians like a good plate of cooked prawns, served chilled, on any public holiday, and Australia Day falls in the middle of Australia’s summer.

“Oh dear,” I thought as I went to bed. “Margaret’s not going to like this.”
Continue reading “Australia Day”

Apple’s iBooks EULA Drawing Ire

Slashdot has this intriguing story about the new Apple iBook publishing arrangement:
iBooks AuthorApple’s iBooks EULA Drawing Ire
Posted by Unknown Lamer on Tuesday January 24, @05:10PM
from the publish-and-perish dept.

An anonymous reader writes in with one of many articles about the iBooks EULA (End User Licensing Agreement), this time questioning whether it is even enforceable. Quoting: “The iBooks Author EULA plainly tries to create an exclusive license for Apple to be the sole distributor of any worked created with it, but under the Copyright Act an exclusive license is a ‘transfer of copyright ownership,’ and under 17 U.S.C. 204 such a transfer ‘is not valid unless an instrument of conveyance, or a note or memorandum of the transfer, is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed.’ When authors rebel and take their work elsewhere, Apple has, at most, a claim for breach-of-EULA — but their damages are the failure to pay $0 for the program.”
From Slashdot at http://slashdot.org/

The “Ars Technica” site has a thoughtful discussion of this problem here.

And this review of the Apple program “iBooks Author” on the «MacWorld» site is detailed and worth reading.

Jacket 4

Cognac Jacquet

Take a look at Jacket 4:

Articles: David Lehman — The Questions of Postmodernism

Eliot Weinberger : Ísland

Interview: Noel King interviews Pete Ayrton, publisher of Serpent’s Tail books


Caddel and Quartermain : OTHER British and Irish Poetry since 1970

Forrest Gander — review of Yasusada: Doubled Flowering

Review of the 1998 Cambridge Conference of Contemporary Poetry

H.M.Enzensberger’s Kiosk reviewed by Lawrence Joseph

Tom Clark’s White Thought reviewed by Dale Smith

John Tranter: Mr Rubenking’s “Breakdown”
— The utilisation of digital computers in the deconstruction and reconstruction of writing. — It’s usually thought that an “unintended” poetry was either impossible or “unreadable”. But there is a way of constructing practically any form of literary material that will embody many of the traditional values of “literature”, which will be curiously readable, but which is free of authorial intent. An energetic computer programmer, inspired by articles in «Scientific American» and «byte» magazine, has developed such a method — but not in the severe service of modern literary theory. Like a poet, he did it for the fun of it.

Work for Hire update

Steve Shapiro on his blog at http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=1030 says:

“A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned on this blog a situation I was in: that I was unwilling to sign a contract for an essay I had written in contribution an anthology of critical essays from Oxford University Press (OUP), because the contract stipulated that the essay would be regarded as “work for hire.” This would mean that I would have absolutely no rights as the author of the work. Whereas most academic press contracts ask you to sign away certain of your rights, by transferring copyright from yourself to the press, this contract from OUP meant that I would have no rights at all — if I signed, I would be agreeing that (as Gordon Hull put it — see the comments to the previous blog entry) “copyright was never [mine] in the first place — it belonged to OUP from the start.” It is obvious that, were this to become the norm in academic publishing, then intellectual enquiry and academic freedom, as we now know them, would cease to exist. Writers would become “knowledge workers” whose output belonged to the press that published them (or to the university at which they worked, in another variant of the scenario) in the same way that code written on the job at Microsoft, Apple, or Google belongs to those companies, and not to the writers themselves.”
More here.

Yul Brynner – Photographer

Yul Brynner: A Photographic JourneyExhibition Review: Yul Brynner – A Photographic Journey: As well as starring roles in films such as ‘The King and I’, and ‘The Ten Commandments’ (and having two PhDs), Yul Brynner was an accomplished photographer whose subjects were some of the most acclaimed actors of the 20th century. In this photo, his Leica looks a bit strange because it is left-to-right reversed, in a mirror. So does Yul, actually.

Continue reading “Yul Brynner – Photographer”

Just rock and roll

The Last Waltz

Jen Chaney at the Washington Post notes that “The Telegraph has reported that a “small number of refunds” have been issued to moviegoers in the United Kingdom who complained because «The Artist» — a movie that is quite clear about the fact that it is a silent film — doesn’t have any spoken dialogue in it.” She adds “If you’ve seen even five seconds of a commercial for «The Artist», glanced briefly at any moment of the recent Golden Globes telecast or read the briefest possible synopsis of the film, how could you not know it was silent?

Reminds me of the time many decades ago when my wife and I went to a Sydney art cinema to see Martin Scorcese’s 1978 film «The Last Waltz», which documents the final concert by The Band. The concert was held at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on November 25, 1976, and featured one of the most extensive lineups of prominent guest performers at a single concert, including Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Ringo Starr, Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, Ronnie Wood and Van Morrison. Wikipedia says that “The Last Waltz is hailed as one of the greatest concert films ever made”.

As we waited in line to buy our tickets, we overheard the ticket-seller patiently explaining to two little old ladies from New York that alas, the film did not contain any waltzing.
“No waltzes? Not even one?” asked one of the ladies, disappointed and bewildered.
“I’m sorry, madam. Just rock and roll, I’m afraid, all in four-four time.”