Today is the 5th of January, and here are five fabulous things I have discovered this month.
1. http://songreader.net/. This is the website where people can upload their versions of songs off of Beck’s new album, Song Reader. The album is only sheet music, so if you go to the website you can hear multiple versions of the same songs by different people. I love the songs, I love the videos, I love the concept! Beck is so amazing! I love Beck! People are so creative! I love people! I have become obsessed with this site and find myself smiling like a baby at a ceiling fan at my computer screen, even though it’s a piece of crap and takes forever to download anything. Makes me smile like a baby, I tell ya.
2. A long time ago, the New York Times ran a graphic art serial in the paper’s magazine called “Building Stories”, by Chris Ware. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was about things that happened in the lives of people who lived in this building. The “happenings” were day to day things, just moments in time, but I was very moved by the stories, and one panel in particular resonated with me so profoundly that I cried and cried and never forgot about it.
Sometimes, I didn’t understand what was going on in the comics. I don’t think I ever thought they were funny, on account of they weren’t. Even when they baffled me, I liked them, because those little boxes of lines had so much to tell me.
Then I heard that Ware was going to collect them in book form, and finally I heard it was coming out, and then I ordered it sight unseen from Amazon for my holiday gift to me. Yay, me! How did you know? It’s exactly what I wanted!
Actually, it was even better than I expected. It’s not a book; it’s 14 discrete pieces that tell different parts of a story that has no beginning or ending. It’s not linear, and it jumps around in space and time, so you can enter or exit from any point. Some of the pieces are really big, like a full fold-out newspaper, and some are small, like folded streamers or love notes. You never know what is about to unfold – literally and figuratively!- in front of you, and the pictures and words are so compelling that you get sucked right into the pages.
I am completely blown away and somewhat overwhelmed by the scope of this project, and it will take me a really long time to go through it all. It’s very dense and detailed, and I find myself getting stuck on just one aspect of one panel, like how the snow falling in the picture looks so real, and the lights in the building seem so warm, and I am transported to when I lived in Wisconsin and sometimes the world was just so gray and muted, frost on steel, and looking in the picture I can feel the pain of my toes freezing into purple veined slabs under socks too thin for the season…the images are pretty darned evocative, I must say! Here’s the one I’ll start tomorrow:
Both Building Stories and Song Reader let the audience/reader take part in the creation of the art; you get to bring something to the table, to add a little something to the feast. I think that is so special and, well, generous. It’s nice of the artists to let me manipulate the art, and I appreciate it! Thanks, gentlemen!
Eugene Richards is a photographer, film maker and writer who has been published in tons of magazines and who has authored a bunch of books. His work is stark and arresting, and sometimes shockingly beautiful. It’s haunting. Go to his site, and view the photos on slideshow, or Google Image him.
Damn. That’s some real slice-of-life stuff, no?
4. Speaking of super-dark, but oddly redemptive, I finished Colum McCann’s This Side of Brightness, which I liked a lot. Right at the beginning he uses the phrase “a cartography of darkness”. I think that’s lovely, don’t you? You should read it. There is one scene in it that is so fantastic, yet rendered so realistically and masterfully that I feel like I was there, even though it it something I never could have imagined.
5. Photo by Steve Damascus
I like this poem: