Modest As Cake

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Let's have a sense of history: Republican Values

Gosh, isn't it nice of that well-tanned young man to keep that young girl from talking during the movie?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Installment #1 in the "Did It Really Happen?" series

I started out thinking about diamonds. The geometric shape, really, more than the actual gem. I considered why I have always hated the shape. Is it because it looks precarious to me, balanced on one point like that? Is it that I would prefer a stable, horizon-hugging shape like a rectangle -- especially if the rectangle were flatter than it was tall?

No, I probably always hated it because it reminded me of the black diamonds of ski trails -- the more diamonds, the more expert and deadly the trail. Deadly risk for someone who was all knees and distraction. And then diamonds as the stupid tropes of spy movies -- stolen drawstring bags of glittering diamonds, ice! But... before that. Diamonds. Diamond. One diamond, right -- that black and white image of George Reeves' hands crushing coal into a -- flying in the face of science, stone-cutting, common knowledge among jewelers and even little kids -- into a faceted, sparkling, perfectly cut jewel. For god's sake. Childhood credulity being tested and even teased.

But then... the George Reeves Superman. That god-awful outfit. What year was it when this stuff was filmed? The Superman suit made me itch just to look at it. Woolly and saggy, and itchy -- well maybe it would make a human itch, and not Superman. The only good part of the series was the introduction. Maybe just the voice-over of the introduction. That coal chunk, each time its mystery was revealed -- was that an actual black velvet background behind those crushing hands?, it just encouraged more kids to inhale lighter fluid, palm a briquette out of the Kingsford bag, and imitate a shuddering he-man pose of sheer effort. And each time, we really hoped it would work. This would be the time our squinty flattened summer backyard would yield... the treasure, the gem, something awe-inspiring. Not a tease, a real gem.

But about the itching. That Superman looked uncomfortable to me, for all his hands-on-hips flag-rippling posture. The suit was in no way from some other planet. It came perilously close to the waffled layers that kids wore in the winter, or worse: a home-made Halloween costume. The cardboard, the aluminum foil, the tights, the sneakers, all signaling that no transformation had taken place, no flying would be had on Halloween, no actual rays would be glowing from rayguns, there would be no way to perch on brooms, legs crossed at ankles. That Superman couldn't wait to get out of that itchy suit, even if it meant spending his time being mocked as Clark Kent -- at least he didn't have to show wrinkly woolen kneecaps and,... is it possible that the Superman suit, when you peered at it, showed prickles, like he had fallen into a cactus?

No, that's... that's Robert Crumb. That's every drawing of a sweater, every pair of socks he ever drew, they had prickers. The turtlenecks threatened to engulf the wearers, the socks never failed to slip into the heel of the shoes, and they always, always, always itched. The itch was signaled in a simple, spare way: just a couple of poky, sharp lines, some cross-hatching made it clear: in this land, in Crumb-world, there is no comfort, no soothing, no relief from irritation. It made me wish that they too could be liberated from wool and worn-out elastic. Even their blankets, rough and scratchy, made it hard to sleep.

So then... the drawings of Crumb riding Amazon women like ostriches. He had jumped on, insect-like -- like a grasshopper? Or... like a tick. Intent on burrowing under the skin, latching on, not like a baby needing milk, but like a tick, burrowing and hiding under the skin, parasitic, feeding. The gleefulness, eyes blank and magnified, but mouth salacious and triumphant, riding the giant animal.

So then... Robert and Aline Crumb at the New York Public Library. She, self-possessed, dismissive, piercing yenta voice. He, neck barely occupying his shirt, mocking, hostile, hungry for a ride on a giant. Did he jump on her back right there on the library stage? Was she wearing a flowing blue pattern dress? Did he laugh -- was it dry, or mocking, or triumphant? She was smooth, I know that. And watching him made me scratch my itchy neck.