Consumed by Despair

March 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

What’s my favorite website or blog? Given that the Interweb offers up an almost infinite cornucopia of weird-ass information put up by weird-ass people, that’s a tough decision. I have my more-than-once-a-day visits to the Comics Journal website, The Comics Reporter, Robot 6 and The Hooded Utilitarian, but alt-comix obsessives already know about these. I also frequently check the sites of individual creators whose work I like (like my pal Ben Towle’s blog), but again, I suspect most folks do the same. Two blogs, however, that I compulsively read and immoderately enjoy—and both of which occasionally veer into comics and comics-related topics—are Jeff Sconce’s Ludic Despair and Consumed and Judged.

Sconce describes himself as “involved in media education at an undisclosed location [Northwestern University, cough, cough] in the great cultural Other that is the American Midwest.” During the 1990s, I met Jeff a couple of times at the annual Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference, so I knew he was smart, irreverent and funny, and his two blogs are likewise so. Ludic Despair runs Sconce’s longer essays about politics and culture, and can be (surprise!) a downer—there is, after all, much rotten in the State of the Union—but Sconce is snotty and sharp enough to bring the funny too. Whether he’s dissecting Rush Limbaugh’s stone-age attitudes towards American women, or Diablo Cody’s stone-age attitudes towards breeding and the family, he always makes me laugh and think. Last summer, instead of writing indignantly about the impending release of the Kevin James film Zookeeper (“How dare Hollywood hurl this swill at us?”), Sconce instead wrote a checklist, a “comprehensive inventory” of scenes and events that he guessed would be included in the movie, such as:

–Kevin James involved in comically futile fitness routine;

–Kevin James’ comic double-take at hearing first words spoken by talking animal;

–Feces thrown;

–Feces stepped in;

–Joke about sexual allure of “swollen” or “red” hindquarters;

–Zoo animals execute a cooperative caper to assist Kevin James, but without his knowledge (each animal displaying a distinctive “skill”); and etc.

Go read Sconce’s original post. It’s as witty a condemnation of the contemporary Hollywood “comedy” as any I’ve read—though I still find myself wanting to watch Zookeeper armed with his checklist, curious to see how much he got right.

One recent comicy post on Ludic Despair was Sconce’s tribute to Mike Kelley, the alt-musician (in the band/collective Destroy All Monsters) and gallery artist who committed suicide in January. Sconce talked about his own encounters with Kelley (one of which is documented in the book Mike Kelley: Interviews, Conversations, and Chit-Chat [1986-2004] edited by John C. Welchman), and reproduced an image from Kelley’s Kandor project, a series of sculptures inspired by the bottled city in old Superman comics. Here’s a Kelley Kandor:

Because of Sconce’s post, I’m now a Kelley fan, and I’m eager to read PictureBox’s new book, Return of the Repressed: Destroy All Monsters, 1973-1977.

Sconce’s other blog, Consumed and Judged, is more specific in purpose than Ludic Despair. On Consumed, Sconce finds the most disreputable books he can—he spends too much time at garage and library “discard” sales—and reviews them, plowing through stuff like How to Be a Clown (1977) and Caligula: Divine Carnage (2001) to unearth humor and absurdity. If I had a running list of “Funniest Posts I’ve Read on the Internet,” the top slot might go to Sconce’s Consumed piece on Jeanne White’s Cats in Pictures: How to Photograph Your Favorite Feline (1965):

White basically provides information about lenses, lighting, depth of field, etc. that would apply to any object, feline or no. In the cat psychology department, however, we are told cats do not appreciate a “hail-fellow-well-met” approach, and that not treating them “gently” during their photog session will result “in a picture of a peeved pussy!” And no one wants that, at least in this context.

Recently, Sconce stumbled onto a cheap collection of nurse-themed paperbacks, and has begun to post their pulpy, painted covers on the Consumed blog. If you’re one of those comics fans that also likes illustration art (like I am), you should gaze at Julie Jones: Cape Canaveral Nurse (1963) and Art Colony Nurse (1969) here and here. As a tribute to Sconce’s spirited excavation and dissection of both past and present American culture, I present below the covers of pulpy novels that inhabit my own bookshelves. I may never read these books, but they feel to me like precious messages from a long lost zeitgeist, and I’ll never throw them away. I bet Sconce never throws away his books either, thank God.

I wish everyone would post paperback covers on their blogs and websites. Flood the Internet with crass pulp imagery? Yes, please. (Would it be so different from the Internet we have now?)

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