Markdown, Model Hit Pieces, Black Power Tarot

Trying something new this time around by throwing Markdown, StackEdit, and Blogger. Had to cram stuff into the HTML of this template and take a crash course in YAML, so this will either look perfect or weird. Apologies in advance if you get this via RSS and it looks funny. Though supposedly, no one uses RSS anymore so maybe no one’ll notice.

MARKDOWN: I’ve cobbled together a good number of my last few posts in Markdown format, in one text editor or another (gedit, right now). Actually over the past few months, I’ve been using Markdown for drafts of damn near everything–dayjob reports, short story notes, project lists–everything! What I love most is how the raw output is human readable, so for the most part I leave it as is. This post will be the first time my Markdown text will be run through an editor instead of formatted the hard way. If you’re reading this, I guess it works…(?)

MODEL HIT PIECES: I agree in principle with this piece on The Concourse that some of David Brooks’ recent writing seems indicative of someone having a lot of trouble adapting to the way things are enough to WRITE about how they are, and choosing instead to stay fixated on how things “should” be” or, worse, “used to be.” I’ve noticed that trend in his work too, which I’ve followed semi-regularly since BOBOS IN PARADISE. It’s more evident in his columns than it is in his weekly stints on the PBS NEWSHOUR which I DO follow regularly, but it’s crept in there a bit, too. And yes, when I read what he said about Te-Nehisi Coates and his book, I threw up in my mouth a little. But the thing is, I read this Concourse article and was a bit awestruck that such a mean-spirited hit piece could be so relatively well researched. I mean, I’m ALL for critical takedowns of, well, just about anybody. And I’m not above kicking to the testicles to win a fight. But I like to think even I’d have the decency to move on to the joints, the face, maybe the throat, or other soft targets while my opponent’s down, rather than continually stomping him in the nuts.

BLACK POWER TAROT: Say what you want about Alejandro Jodorowsky, but he does keep involving himself in some interesting shit like this…

It’s hard to resist any project that involves a tarot Tina Turner and surrealist filmmaking legend Alejandro Jodorowsky. And so we present the Black Power Tarot, a deck of tarot cards illustrated by Belfast-based graphic designer Michael Eaton. The deck is based on the Tarot De Marseille but is made up of black musicians, comedians, activists and people of note, and was created by the musician King Khan. In a rather incredible twist, the project was overseen by Alejandro Jodorowsky, whose son is friends with King Khan. Big names aside, the pack is a triumph, showing an illustration sensibility that works superbly for its purpose with striking colours and defined line work. And of course, there’s Tina Turner prizing open a lion’s mouth – an image we had no idea we needed to see, but one that’s made our day infinitely more enjoyable.

(via, h/t Damien Williams)

ETA: Markdown/StackEdit/Blogger experiment result: I’d call this first trial a success, with a couple of bugs to work out.

Quickie Review: BEFORE THE INCAL

Before the IncalBefore the Incal by Alejandro Jodorowsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book almost defies your expectations of a prequel for The Incal. Still, you get the origins of pathetic Class “R” detective John DiFool, you see the byzantine and surreal chain of events that push him directly to his role in that story, and you see in the last chapter–which I personally could’ve done without–wherein Jodo feels the need to show every other character in The Incal and how they’re positioned to take up their roles in that book. But that doesn’t take away from how brilliantly the Jodoverse was fleshed out by Zoran Janjetov in true Moebius-like fashion. And while this story is a significantly lighter on spiritual concepts than The Incal, Jodo does a great job highlighting the existential and practical suffering of a world which lacks the spiritual.

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Don’s Christmas Storytime: “Scenes from Jodorowsky’s RUDOLPH”

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Decided that this is going to be my last post of 2014.  I think I’m past that year-in-review stuff.  Instead, during this Christmas season with all of its stories of one kind or another, I thought I would share one of my own.

So, here’s my present to all of you.  Gather ’round, kids!  Bring your hot cocoa.  Uncle Don wants to share something with you…

“Scenes from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Failed Adaptation of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer


SAM THE SNOWMAN stands naked, except for a loincloth and the holy symbols set into his snow body at each of his chakras, next to a “North Pole” sign.

SAM: You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen.  Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen…

CUT TO: Each reindeer after its introduction.

DASHER: I am Dasher.  My planet is Mercury.

DANCER: I am Dancer.  My planet is Saturn.

PRANCER: My name is Prancer.  My planet is Jupiter.

VIXEN: My name is Vixen.  My planet is Uranus.

COMET: I am Comet.  My planet is Earth

CUPID: I am Cupid.  My planet is Venus.

DONNER: I am Donner.  My planet is Neptune.

BLITZEN: My name is Blitzen.  My planet is Mars.

RUDOLPH: I’m Rudolph!  What planet am I?

CUT TO: All of the other reindeer, laughing like a CACKLE OF HYENAS, until they suddenly stop.

DONNER: You are excrement.


Male and female dwarves hustle and bustle around an industrial assembly line. Two of the little people, HERMEY and the FOREMAN, square off.

HERMEY: But I don’t WANT to complete Santa’s collection of one-thousand testicles!


The Foreman draws a toy pistol, as does Hermey.  The dwarves stop what they’re doing and give the combatants a wide berth.  They circle each other until Hermey fires first and hits the Foreman in the crotch.  The Foreman goes down.  Hermey goes mad, rolling around on the shop floor screaming, before scrambling out the door.

CLOSE ON Foreman’s crotch.  Yellow butterflies rise up from the bloody hole.  The dwarves applaud.


Hermey, now shaved bald and dressed in sackcloth, is riding on Rudolph’s back. Rudolph walks them past the skinned, crucified carcass of The Abominable Snowman of the North.  At the foot of the cross sits YUKON CORNELIUS, a slender young woman dressed in furs and a belt of mining gear, smoking a cigarette.

RUDOLPH: Is this the way to Lotus Island?

YUKON CORNELIUS (in a man’s voice): If you think it is, then it is.


Rudolph and Hermey are kneeling at the foot of the throne of the lion KING MOONRACER. He comes down and places his paws on their bowed heads as SITAR MUSIC plays.

KING MOONRACER:  Every night, I roam the earth and when I find a misfit no one wants, I bring it to live here, until someone wants it.  You cannot hide yourselves here.  You must find your own place.  The Tarot can help you.  But first, you must be purified…



Standing in a hot spring pool, Rudolph and Hermey are being lathered in soap by two amputees, each missing legs, strapped to the backs of two other amputees who have their legs, but are missing arms. 

CLOSE ON Rudolph’s haunches being gently scrubbed.


A winter storm rages across the North Pole, with a wind that sounds like CHIRPING BIRDS.



Rudolph is joyfully reunited with Santa and the other reindeer.

SANTA: Rudolph with your noise so bright, you must carry your light out into the world! (Turning to the other reindeer.) You no longer need a Santa.

Santa pours lamp oil on his suit and lights himself on fire.  Rudolph bites into Santa’s charred corpse, tears away a piece, and raises his head in triumph!

CUT TO: Rudolph’s face, which is covered in honey instead of Santa’s flesh.

RUDOLPH: Real life awaits us!


To Absent Friends, Etgar Keret, My Misspent Mallrat Youth, and More Jodo

It’s been a lot of quickie reviews of things I’ve been reading and watching lately. So let’s do something different today, yeah?

RIP Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, and also actress Arlene Martel, who I met at the Rod Serling Conference last year, still trying to keep herself out there in typical L.A.-style.  This isn’t one of those, “How dare they forget such-and-such?” notes.  Just a nod to the one I had a brief connection with…


Etgar Keret says a lot of things perfectly.  This bit from his interview in Granta is no exception…

I once met this very good writer. She told me that sometimes she comes upon a metaphor or a description and she writes it down on a notecard and keeps it in a box. Then when she writes a story and her character is taking a walk, she thinks OK, I’ll take a walking image from my box of notes. And I said to her, ‘Why? The guy is already walking.’ I don’t think a text should be beautiful. We’re trying to say something, to help something. It’s like sticking a feather on a guy’s back. You know he either grows wings for evolutionary reasons or he doesn’t have feathers. That’s my attitude to writing – although there are writers whom I love who I can see obviously don’t write this way.

Who wants to see where I spent my preteen mallrat years in a state of urban decay?

These photos break my fucking heart.  The building is still walking distance from the house I grew up in.  I haven’t been inside it in at least 15 years.  Those lounge pits you see are exactly as I remember from the ’80s, except the vinyl covering the seat cushions was a red violet instead of blue, if memory serves.  And there are a lot of memories.  Buying 45s, then, as technology progressed, cassette singles at the record store.  The Burger King that came, went, and came back where I got many a lunch after swimming lessons and learned the joys of the bacon double cheeseburger.  The Waldenbooks where I’d buy the Target novelizations of classic Doctor Who episodes, and perusing other books that no 10 year old had any business going through, but I got away with it as long as I wasn’t anywhere near the Playboy section of the magazine rack.  I was never ever asked to stay away from the “personal massagers” section of the Spencer Gifts, for that matter.  All the classic Star Wars action figures and other collectible toys that sell for hundreds of dollars now that my parents paid the ’80s equivalent of hundreds of dollars to Kay Bee Toys back then… ah well, the past is past.

Next up in my movie queue: Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain.

Quickie Review: THE EYES OF THE CAT

The Eyes of the CatThe Eyes of the Cat by Alexandro Jodorowsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pure impulse buy at my local comics shop. I’ve been on a Jodorowsky kick lately (I’m working my way through his films and have already read The Incal and some of The Metabarons) so this shouldn’t surprise anyone.

The first graphic novel collaboration between Jodo and Mœbius gives us twenty-four full page illustrations with minimal dialogue, as part of Jodo’s attempt to do something unconventional while trying to subvert commercial constraints. (He says as much in his introduction to this 2013 edition.) While the story is short enough to warrant grumblings about the collection being overpriced, it has everything you’d expect from any Jodorowsky/Mœbius tale in Métal Hurlant magazine: surrealistic sci-fi illustrated by a master. On top of that… again, we’re talking about full page Mœbius here, so while the collection could’ve (should’ve?) been cheaper, I was happy to pay what I paid.

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Quickie Review: EL TOPO

I have a theory that there aren’t enough trigger warnings in the world when it comes to describing classic cult Mouvement panique films. But in the case of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s legendary 1970 “acid Western” El Topo, let’s try.

For anyone who intends to watch this film, then TW: depictions and descriptions of extreme violence, rape, genital mutilation, incest, child abuse, ableism, sexism, racism, some trans… eh, fuck it, I give.

No, this isn’t a go at trigger warnings. It’s an acknowledgement that this is a film made at a time and place where ideas such as, say, using part of your film budget to make fake dead animals when you could just go kill some real ones were considered ludicrous–oh, which reminds me, TW: animal cruelty.

El Topo is precisely the kind of art that causes critics of all kinds to have to choose sides: Is the film easily dismissed for its depictions of sacrilegious, violent, depraved, misogynistic, and generally unsavory behavior, or is it an artist’s expression, whose license allows, even demands the right to strategically depict sacrilege, violence, depravity, misogyny, etc. to be utilized as tools? Either way, the promise of this movie has been fulfilled–I have been thoroughly mind-fucked. I can only imagine what it would’ve been like to have seen it during its heyday as the “first midnight movie.”

When you consider the world and the characters Jodorowsky created for El Topo, from the surrealistic representations of spiritual seekers and gurus as gunfighters, to the graphic (and I mean extremely graphic) metaphors about both the noble and depraved state of men, women, society, organized religion–might as well just say, “the whole world”–and then consider the questions the film puts forth about problems of mindfully attempting to navigate this condition in a spiritual manner… well, that’s the mind-fuck.

Interesting note: I’m not going to say Jodo had any influence on Bruce Lee of all people (although it’s a line of thought worth pursuing one day, given that Jodo’s work really did influence a LOT, cf. Jodorowsky’s Dune), but Jodo shows a progression to enlightenment similar to the progression Bruce Lee outlined at the end of his unfinished film The Game of Death, expressed as the need to symbolically defeat representations of old belief systems. (Except, where gunfighting is merely the symbol Jodo uses, Lee attempts to show the close integration of the martial and the spiritual.)

Anyway, did the character of El Topo manage to navigate his path and achieve enlightenment? All I can say is this: at first, I thought this movie was about a particular man’s search for spirituality gone horribly wrong. Instead, it’s about man who, with conviction, devotion, dumb luck, by hook and by crook, actually does manage a measure of enlightenment. His response to that enlightenment is horrific… but utterly and completely understandable.

Mind. Fucked.

Quickie Review: THE INCAL

The IncalThe Incal by Alejandro Jodorowsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll be honest, I finally got around to reading this classic only after having seen Frank Pavich’s documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune. I’d heard of Jodo and his El Topo, and you can’t be any kind of comics fan without having at least heard the name Mœbius. Still, I came late to this particular party.

It’s absolutely true what people have said–you can literally pick out the bits that have been used in any number of sci-fi films over the past 30 years. I’d never read The Incal, but every one of Mœbius’s meticulously drawn panels seemed familiar. Jodo’s writing didn’t disappoint either–it’s a good example of a writer weaving his beliefs into a story while avoiding, IMO, turning the work into a tract.

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