Thursday, July 24, 2008

On my often obscure taste

I'm often the subject of ridicule by my friends for going out of my way to read/listen/watch things that are off the beaten path. I champion these things with the knowledge that none of my friends will see what I see in the objects of my fetishism.

As near as I can tell, the reason I prefer many of these things to what they like is that the obscure offers a greater potential to personalize the art. The best explanation I can give is this:

Say that any time a book, album, or movie comes out, it has a numerical value. Let's say 100. Anytime someone actively likes something, they get a piece of that number. If twenty people like something, each person likes it by a degree of five. If 2000 people like it, each person likes it by a degree of .05.

The degree constitutes ownership, knowledge, a connection with the art's creator. By my reasoning, a higher number is better. A higher number constitutes a greater stake in the secret club of the Knowing.

I have fun knowing that I went out of my way to find something knew. I have fun staking a claim in unknown territory. I have fun defending and proselytizing.

There are a few downsides to this kind of obscurity-worship. Being the only one around to like something can be very lonely. It can be very frustrating to explain why I think something is great and worth someone's time, especially if others are in no mood for something new. Finally, when I am part of a small fan base, I tend to get lumped in with the snobs and the people who think that their ownership degree gives them license to be cruel and insulting to those that arrive late to the party. "You just don't get it," they say. "You are completely missing the point." Then the fanboy discussions of author interviews and canon ensue.

I am not like that. While I reject the things I don't like, actively and bitterly, I would never deny a person a stake in something I enjoy. As I see it, more interpretations add richness to any art. If the artist did not want his/her art to be consumed and discussed, s/he would not have released it into the wild. Keeping people out, trying to prevent their enjoyment of any kind of artistic endeavor, is the worst thing I could do.

This has been a rambling post, but I feel closer to a coherent viewpoint, having written it.

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American Flagg gets the Uber-Ultra-Mega-Deluxe Treatment

This week, Image Comics and Dynamic Forces team up to release the first volume of Howard Chaykin's classic, American Flagg!. I wish I could say more about this book, but I haven't read it. I am still very confident recommending it. In the last few years I've become a great fan of Chaykin, through his work on DC's iteration of The Shadow, Black Kiss, and Power and Glory. His work exudes the cynicism and vitriol of the best muckrakers, in any medium. I had planned on catching up on American Flagg! through back issues, but decided to wait for this edition, when I heard about it. I'm very excited. Comic Book Resources has a nice interview/article on the book here. Buy it from Amazon, or better yet, walk down the street and buy it from your local comic book store.

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Haiku Review: The Dark Knight

Heroes must maintain
balance of mayhem and calm
in fighting crazies

image by Bill Sienkiewicz,

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