The Honest Tease?

Imagine an ironic love machine. In private, I tease you. I mean all the off color things I say about you. And, depending upon the kind of person you are, you love every word, not because they are complimentary (often times they aren’t and when they are- completely double edged and ambiguous) but because I couldn’t have made these contentious remarks at all if I wasn’t completely and utterly fascinated by you. And ‘fascination,’ you might come to realize, is a far purer ante-cedent to affection than simple ‘approval’ or ‘agreement.’

Superman/Batman: Supergirl


I often think of SM/BM (lol) Vol. 2 as “the last time I enjoyed Jeph Loeb’s writing.” But it is more than that; it is perhaps the most bold, beautiful and triumphant move in DC’s campaign to return to Silver Age greatness. This is no gratuitous super-hero comic resurrection. Michael Turner and Jeph Loeb’s Kara Zor-El merits return; Turner’s rendering of Superman’s cousin is breathtaking in both her angelic and diabolic incarnations and Jeph Loeb seems at the height of his powers of characterization in making Kara at once innocent and mysterious, likeable and imperfect, mythic and relatable. There is something realistic and compelling about this “girl who fell to earth.” It’s this element of emotional earnestness that counterbalances the story’s fan-boy showmanship; Supergirl’s training on Paradise Island being interrupted by the invasion of an army of Doomsday clones sent by Darkseid whose involvement prompts Batman and Superman to team up with Big Barda who allows Batman to use Mr. Miracle’s New Genesis technology in their rescue mission on Apokolips.

You have to give credit to Turner and Loeb; their ‘Super-girl’ becomes DCs “it girl” for the next two or three years until attention turns back to Power Girl and Donna Troy during INFINITE CRISIS. But in every sense of the word, the two creators over play their hand. Turner’s pencils which start out grand, detailed and sensuous (if predictably Image-esque) fall victim to their own ambition and significantly deteriorate towards the middle of the storyline. The hard distinct lines that give Superman his emotional gravitas and Kara Zor-El her fresh faced (read: slightly pedophilic) sex-appeal in the first 22 pages of the book start to blur and fade in the middle 20 pages leaving Kara’s emotional state less viscerally sympathetic and the Amazons’ physical presence less awe-inspiring than perhaps they could have been. Similiarly, Jeph Loeb’s characterization of Kara goes awry immediately after “Superman/Batman.” In her own series, Loeb evacuates Kara of any of the subtlety, vulnerability and simple beauty that makes the Superman/Batman Kara such an evocative character. In “Supergirl: Power,” Loeb has the heroine spend four issues beating her way through the DC universe with hardly any pretense at all. Myth and parsimonious complexity quickly give way to gratuitous violence and sensationalism. But perhaps this is just one more reason why “Superman/Batman: Supergirl” is such a gem – its charm is singular and, both within Kara’s personal continuity and Loeb’s work as of late, fleeting. Not to be missed.Quote-right


Filed under: Comic Books, , , ,

Book Review: THE BOOK OF TROUBLE by Ann Marlowe



In THE BOOK OF TROUBLE, Ann Marlowe perhaps suffers from the success of her previous work, HOW TO STOP TIME. HOW TO STOP TIME is something of a stylistic eureka; Ann’s severe, spare prose relates her career as a heroin junkie with impressive incision, clarity and erudition. She validates our puerile voyeurism for self destructive-cum-glamorous behavior with a cool-headed, easy-handed intellectualism by posing questions like: “What does the phenomenology of Martin Heidegger have to do with smack and Punk Rock?” But in THE BOOK OF TROUBLE, the intersection of minimalist style, ivory tower intellectualism and personal confession falls out of joint.

In the first half of the book, Marlowe, the Harvard educated power-Jewess I have come to know and love, introduces us to her post-heroin New York City social scene; a monotonous list of ridiculously well-educated expatriates from the Third World. She shoots us their names with nary an image or description, but we know how smart and sensitive and open they are; she tells us as much – it has something to do with the fact that they are from the Third World. Absent are TIME’s compelling vignettes of Marlowe’s friends burning off excess drug energy driving cross country for no reason but to feel the road under their feet. Instead, we are given dinner party guest lists. It immediately becomes clear that Ann isn’t plumbing the depths of her social situation as she did in HOW TO STOP TIME and, as a result, falls into the trap of Orientalism we wouldn’t expect her to fall for.

By the time Marlowe introduces us to Amir – her Afghan paramour – we understand why; the intellectual rigor Ann applies to her experience with drugs is enabled by her disassociation with it. In HOW TO STOP TIME, Marlowe makes clear that her relationship to heroin was a phase, that her addiction was voluntary and then, when she no longer wished to use heroin, she stopped. The separation between heroin use and Marlowe’s identity allows her the conceptually luminous, direct honesty that makes TIME a standout. In TROUBLE, however, Marlowe’s emotions and physical desire for Amir come center stage and, perhaps because she never stops loving Amir, can’t seem to establish the distance and perspective that makes TIME so compelling. I get the sense that Marlowe over analyzes and re-contextualizes in intellectual terms things that are sexual and emotional even as she sounds the call for a ‘return to feeling.’ She analyzes Afghan culture to explain why Amir treats her badly and ultimately opts out of their relationship but never seems to entertain the notion that ‘maybe he just isn’t that into her.’ As a result, her analysis comes off long winded, circumspect and sometimes pathetic; the emotionally stunted intellectual reads and writes around not just her own feelings but Amir’s.

This isn’t to say that TROUBLE is without its charms, though. The second half of the book, as Marlowe’s orbit of Amir becomes wider and his presence in the text becomes more attenuated, enjoys a realignment of perspective, analysis and tone that made TIME great. Her observation of American journalists socializing amongst one another in Iraq amidst the war features a kinetic, exciting and powerful interpolation of narrative and analysis that is canny, entertaining and spot on. Whatever the exotic location, Marlowe elucidates sexual dynamics with a provocatively efficient and insightful voice. Marlowe’s reflections as she seduces a much younger American photographer delivers on the promise of a physically fearless, coolly unapologetic and cerebrally powerful spin on ‘Carrie Bradshaw’ Marlowe’s publisher’s might have been counting on but, unfortunately, cannot guarantee with any consistency.

Filed under: Literary Review, Uncategorized, , ,

Pumps AND a BUMP.


Nothing gets under my skin quicker and deeper than when two-bit punks trying to wax encyclopedic come whack on an old school jam. One such oft’ maligned joint is Hammer’s (he had dropped the M.C.) “Pumps And a Bump.” [Press ‘Play’ on the Youtube window and feel that beat in yo’  seat while we confab on a hip-hop masterpiece.]

No, New Jacks on Youtube, the song is not called “Pumps IN a Bump” or “Pumps AND a RUMP” or even “RUMPS IN A BUMP.” Hammer’s ill fated, “gangsta” party anthem is an ode to every black man’s two greatest loves; high heel shoes (that’s the ‘PUMP’) and twittering behinds. (“BUMP”)

“BUMPS,” interestingly enough, is both noun, the  derriere, and verb, the thrusting motion Hammer attempts to elicit in same. Hammer’s layered, nuanced exhortation for us to “Bump” (in our “Pumps”) collapses the distinction between form and motion, object and subject, and dancer from dance that has plagued “booty philosophers” like Uncle Luke, Teddy Riley and Jermaine Dupri for years. Is Hammer a semantic genius? A booty prophet preaching to unknowing masses? Maybe. Probably. Definitely!

But genius like Hammer’s is lost on haters. Hip Hop Purists (hmmph!) and Pop Culture Piss-Ants alike  identify “Pumps And a Bump” as the definitive moment Hammer had passed  into embaressing, fitfully self denying irrelevance.  For more on that myopic point of view, look no further than the grass roots, cultural think tank that is ….

To them I offer the following, numbered-for-easy reference talking points as they watch perhaps one of the most under-rated music videos the world has ever ‘dissed. . .

1. Hammer chooses to open his video in black-and-white whilst preserving his woman-servant’s valentine red high heel shoes (PUMPS) in full, illustrious color. The contrast is stark and hypnotic (“I certainly couldn’t take my eyes off those PUMPS!”) and evocative of another 1993 cultural phenomenon, Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” wherein after some two hours of black-and-white Holocaust drama, the main character, a Nazi arms manufacturer played by Liam Niesen, has a Jew-loving epiphany upon seeing a little Jewess in a fully technicolor, red jacket. . . . or something, I haven’t really seen that shit all the way through.

Since Hammer and Steven SCHPIELBERG’s projects came out at roughly the same time, I think it fair to say that those two great voices of their respective peoples were tapping into the same nascent zeitgeist of pretensious pseudo-artsy-ness that, although unnamed at the time, would come to define the early ’90s. (Think 1990’s  “Coprock.”)

 The parallels between Steven Schpielberg’s Holocaust epic and Hammer’s encomium to dance-ass are too numerous and profound to contemplate here, but I would advise my gentle readers to at least come away from this short discussion with renewed certainty that: The Jews won’t stop until they steal everything from the Black Man. Every. Thing.

2. Some of you might not catch this, but listen up. Approximately three minutes and fifty seconds into the video, Aaron Hall of “Guy” fame (he also dated Patra) starts singing a New Jack Swing hook that is like smoothe, hot, air-born butter all up in your ear. I can listen to him coo all day.

And, of course, apropos of everything creepy, Hall appears in the video wearing a skull cap, dark glasses and sporting a long, wooden walking stick as if to signify to observant viewers that: if this ‘”Pumps and a Bump” thing doesn’t pop off, I am equipped to do some voodoo exorcism shit on Hammer’s lovely home.’

3. Okay, perhaps I was so excited by Voodoo Master Aaron Hall’s appearance that I missed the obvious sartorial jubilee that is Hammer’s zebra banana hammock, a look we are unlikely to see outside Escuelita’s blatino stripper madness on Sunday nights (is it still on Sundays?) much less within the hip-hop community. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I will leave for you to decide. I for one, appreciate a man (who has a lot of money) who is secure in his body (and isn’t fat and disgusting) showing the world a little something (as long as the little something isn’t that little).   

These three talking points only scratch the surface of “Pumps and a Bump.” I invite my fellow hip-hop-heads to continue what I have started: take another look at this diamond in the rough and reflect on the many facets of its unrecognized genius. Or be wigiddy whack and don’t.

Filed under: Pop Culture, , , , ,

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