Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Medium is the Message & We Are Become It:
Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media

McLuhan, considered a contemporary of Roland Barthes (who I know many of you have read), delivers his defining treatise here. As much as "Understanding Media" is behind the times (published in '64) in the particular technology cited, the book is stunningly with/ahead of the times in it's assessment of tech's growing prevalence in western society. It's extrapolation on media's role in our lives, the nature of language altered by manufactured trends brought to us in the vehicle of media, spectatorship and it's influence on behavior/values, is as prescient/applicable now as when it was written. (In fact, moreso). Depicted in a literally visionary (ie; having the prescience to not only know what was to come in the world of media and technology, but also to foresee Western Consumer Society's reaction/assimilation of/into said media) overview by Marshall McLuhan TRULY ONE OF THOSE BOOKS THAT YOU WILL ONLY READ SOMETHING OF IT'S KIN LESS THAN A HALF-DOZEN TIMES IN THE ENTIRETY OF YOUR LIFE. Forget Guy Debord, forget Deleuze and Derrida like those cats from this era , McLuhan's intellectual exploration is one of both theory, philosophy and citing specific trends, behaviors, values and actions from the time. Tracing the course both far back into their origins (psychologically, politically, philosophically)... and accurately into the future in which we live. Unlike the company mentioned above, it's not impenetrably labyrinthian and nearly opaque in the metaphor/language used to explore the trajectory(s) of these ideas. Yeah, this one's essential. And very readable. Don't be daunted by the names/postmod company mentioned above. McLuhan's in a class of his own.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Earth is Watching, Careful How You Tread: Elementals, American Gothic,
Interstellar Travel & Interspecies Love in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing

Much like the "Sandman" re-read of last year, this year's tale to re-tackle was making it through the totality of Alan Moore's "Swamp Thing". Like the above-mentioned book by Neil Gaiman, this is a DC Universe defining piece of comics narrative from the 1980's wherein Moore came along (with the rest of the 'British Invasion' including Morrison, Gaiman, Milligan, Delano) and wrote a mature readers/sophisticated suspense title from a long-standing fringe DC mystical/horror title originally serialized during the 1960's to 70's. What he did for this book laid the groundwork for the authors mentioned above to both explore adult themes/contemporary societal issues, but also significantly for storytelling within the DC Universe, Moore brought together all the various tethers of metaphysical/mystic/magic/ kabal aspects of the 70 year history of comics published by DC and gave them a shared history and place within a modern setting, dealing with modern issues. These being ecological, political, existential, philosophical and of course since it's Alan Moore we're talking about here... The Magickal.

Link to Vertigo Comics Alan Moore "Saga of the Swamp Thing" - Vol.1

Link to Vertigo Comics Alan Moore "Saga of the Swamp Thing" - Vol.2

Link to Vertigo Comics Alan Moore "Saga of the Swamp Thing" - Vol.3

Redefining the character of Swamp Thing as a Elemental being sharing a aeons-spanning role in being a caretaker/arbiter of earth's ecological concerns being only a small part of this. Curiously, since this is before the Vertigo imprint of creator-owned and mature readers titles had been set up, it's also set within the same 'universe' of stories as DC's superhero work. So, when Moore depicts the fallout from the DC Comics 'event' book "Crisis on Infinite Earths" it's as John Constantine coming along and enlisting a group of outsider mystics to do the mop-up on the spiritual plane from the cosmological Multiverse fallout of the battles with the Anti-Monitor and all that racket. Clever, Alan!

Link to Vertigo Comics Alan Moore "Saga of the Swamp Thing" - Vol.4

Link to Vertigo Comics Alan Moore "Saga of the Swamp Thing" - Vol.5

Link to Vertigo Comics Alan Moore "Saga of the Swamp Thing" - Vol.6

And where those themes take this story is truly cosmic in nature, both spiritually as well as literally. This is a massive, epic work, that on it's own is a powerful defining work in the comics medium (from a time when just about nobody was writing stories of this kin, ie; '84-87). Also significantly, without the groundwork being laid down by Moore, the following decade of Vertigo and some of the greatest major imprint (and indie!) comics tales of the following decade, would not have had such rich ground to flourish and grow. Defining, groundbreaking, cosmic, existential, creepy, suspenseful, deeply emotive stuff... about a scientist who's body dies due to corporate sabotage of his ecological work, who is then reborn as a living Earth Elemental representing The Green. One of many, spanning centuries as The Parliament of Trees. Indeed, only Alan Moore could have written this tale. For a more in-depth reading than I'm offering here, there's no better plumbing of it's psychedelic, philosophical depths than Andrew Edwards' ongoing analysis, "A Ghost Dressed in Weeds: Unearthing Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing" in the pages of SequentialArt.