Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Melissa's Final Project

Hey guys,

I'm super sad I couldn't make it to the conference today... But--I'm sure it rocked because y'all are awesome.

I wanted to attach my final project, a chapbook entitled: "Drafting My Own Circle K Cycles: Diwata, Tell Me Your Stories, II."

Please view it on Issuu here:

I hope you enjoy it.


P.S. It was such a joy to have everyone in this class <3.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

our class soundtrack

i've been meaning to post this for a long time and keep forgetting. here it finally is!

1. Love Shack by the B-52s
2. Cocaine by Eric Clapton
3. What Would You Do? by City High
4. Shout by Tears for Fears
5. Shiny Happy People by R.E.M.
6. Toughest Girl Alive by Candye Kane
7. Been Caught Stealing by Jane's Addiction
8. Nunsexmonkrock by Nina Hagen
9. Peace Train by Cat Stevens
10. Four Non Blondes, in general
11. Waterfalls by TLC
12. Arrested Development, in general
13. The Offspring
14. Ready or Not by the Fugees
15. A Simple Life by No Doubt
16. Blister in the Sun by the Violent Femmes
17. Boys Don't Cry by the Cure

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sailor's final project in case you wanna check it out

 Link to my final project:


If your projects are linkable, I would love to see them!
Again, it's been a pleasure being with you all this semester. Enjoy your journeys, wherever they take you. Sailor

Monday, April 29, 2013

It's interesting to make lists; lists can reveal profound subtleties in an unassuming way. Lists are especially interesting if, with every repetition, they have evolved slightly, reavling previously unseen nuance. Drinking in the Movies, reads like a list. Wertz basically spells out the entire book on page 13:

"To DO Today, Tomorrow, Forever
1. wake up grumpy
2. coffee, breakfast, 2 newspapers
3. take a dump
4.work on comics
5. stare vacantly out window
6. Lunch of leftovers
7. go to bookstore/ procrastinate
8. walk to work
9. resent work
10. walk home
11. Drink to forget miserable existence"

Like a repeated list, each scene in the book reiterates the same trite, drunken, middle class woes... She makes the same choices and mistakes without the added dimensionality of self realization or even attempt to interrupt the vicious cycle of self-limitation. On page 162, she sums up her response to social responsibility and self-realization: "Hm, the US is water boarding people like crazy and... oh look! Kittens!" While she means this as a joke, of course, and shows herself listening to the news frequently in her panels which is supposed to show us that she does, in fact, care, she seems just like every other citizen that mentions politics because you have to but averts their eyes when real social responsibility enters their sphere.  

I did get the feeling that this woman was representing a self that wasn't really who she was. Not only is she drawn as if she were Little Lulu or some other 1930's newspaper character, but she drops hints that perhaps she is more 3-D than she gives herself credit for. There are keyboards and tiny pianos in the back of her bedroom. Does she play music? She has artist friends in other cities who are excited to see her. She gets published. I marveled at the quote on the back of the book from Fiona Apple, "I wish the little 2-D Julia was my indian in the cupboard. I'd make an easy chair out of a ring box, fasten it to the front of my bike, give her a pen-cap full of whiskey, and off we'd go!" I was surprised by the enthusiasm for this type of unevolving cynicism. The break through, booze-tossing ending should have felt like the revelation we were waiting for, but instead it followed unannounced like a dull wet thud. She mentions it casually on page 187 without sharing any of the insight or struggle of her decision, which I found very unsatisfying. She has so heartily abandoned self exploration/ emotional content/ intimacy that even a comic about her life, a memoir, is impersonal. Her anxiety about her brother, as illustrated on page 117, is the only scene that hints at emotional content.

Upon further examination, I found pictures, interviews, and articles about Wertz that made her seem fairly interesting and decent. Her portrayal of herself is extremely limited in scope.
She says of herself in an interview,
"“Cartoon me is a lot more negative and ornery,” she says. Wertz in real life has never been the same girl who appears on the page, especially not these days. “Sometimes I don’t like the person cartoon me seems to be.” In the beginning, cartoon Julia would often eat the limbs of people who annoyed her, stuff babies with cocaine for drug smuggling purposes or spread her butt cheeks to defecate on a stranger who asked her a stupid question. “I like to fancy that I’m a lot more accepting and happy in real life.” Hearty Magazine, Nov 22, '10"
What does it mean to make a memoir that represents only a slice of who we are? Her character seems more fictional than autobiographical and many of the scenes deal with her experiences of the world around her, as does most fiction, rather than directly portraying a personal experience.

I thought this was a pretty good article about her- I enjoyed seeing photos of her and her studio as it totally
changed the perception I got of her through her work:

Drinking and disillussioned and bottled up

A bit late, effed my back up with yard work and sitting for long periods just isn't feeling too wonderful now.

I had a difficult time relating to this story, and maybe it's just that I'm not part of Julia Wertz's generation. I kept wanting to shake her and say, "Girl, seriously, what sort of trajectory do you think you're on???"

There were some moments I saw that Julia was really trying to think outside of her life. Page 31 when she is unpacking and is seriously aggravated about the loss of her box with her favorite comics, seeing the newspaper headlines that likely were being seen for the first time, put her complaint into a perspective (the last frame).

Her drinking on her 25th birthday (page 85 to 97) and her brain taking a holiday allowed her to self-reflect and with that, self-loathe on her liquid activity taking active control of her life. Her blackout and coming "back" at the Laundromat and returning to her apartment is telling. On learning what happened, Julia starts drinking. Again. Later on page 89, she asks THE question, "What the fuck is wrong with me?" as she heads into the liquor store. She's starting to see what the f*ck is wrong, but the neurons aren't firing everything at her. The attack of the bottles and her brain taking off is telling. From that point to the Holmes and Watson vignette to p 97, she is interjecting some humor while at the same time, noting (p 96) "It's a civious cycle with those two rubes." Who, really, are the rubes, Julia? Um....you AND your brain/common sense!

Is this something common to twenty-somethings today? If so, I am seriously angered that this is an acceptable way to maneuver into adulthood. Granted, we've created quite the f*cking mess in our world, but drinking it away doesn't make it go away.

I kept wanting things to get better, and she does it again on p113. Made me think of the old song Drinking, Again... Julia is a hot mess, and I again wonder about this behavior being indicative of lots of folks her age...or perhaps her life is a warning siren to other twenty-somethings????

Julia shows regret at her drinking, but keeps doing it.  Her self-loathing and Ms. Critical-Bitical show up in little ways, such as p 127's vignettes showing her failings, summing herself up as "Actually, I'm more like a toilet with bad plumbing." That's hella sad.

She also has regret for not being available in SF for her brother, and has regrets (p 117). Her phrase, "...I'm just gonna bottle this back up until it explodes in my future therapist's face." says many things. She puts it as "bottled up" and when you stuff those feelings, they will come out, likely in a not-too-pleasant manner. She is predicting her future with the "explodes in my therapist's face" line. So, Julia, you can't control people, but you are trying to over-control how YOU feel.

The mechanics of the piece were well laid out in grid form, even without frames, the majority of the pages were a 2x3 grid. The artwork was pretty simple, and her caricature was reminiscent of cartoons in the 30s and 40s.

Her brother......he changes at one point, and I was wondering if that was related to his addiction and recovery process, but then that didn't hold up as a theory. Page 76 he is depicted with small eyes, then the next page, he and his sister have the same large buggy eyes. Ditto page 78. Then page 81 he goes back to the small eyes. I wasn't sure what Julia's message was there. Anyone know?

Page 15 lower right frame gave me the only LOL, and to be honest, I know people who actually did vote for Schwarznegger just for kicks.

I was curious about Julia's memoir and the characterizations of women from California from two other readings this semester: Imposter's Daughter and Lucky. Is it me, or do these perpetuate some sort of characterization that California women have lots of problems, whether it be addition, relocation anxiety, moving multiple times, self-awareness issues, inferiority complexes, lack of confidence???

I ended on page 187 feeling hopeful for Julia. I hope she sticks to her guns.

Favor to ask: Can you return my projector on Wed?

Somebody who is on campus on Wednesday:
I'm renting a projector for tomorrow's class. Is there anyone who is going to be on campus Wednesday who can return it for me by 4pm? 
The AV dept. is closed when our class gets out.
Thanks in advance.

The fifth wall

I think there is a fifth wall in literature.  The fourth wall (that which separates the audience from the action on the stage or screen) doesn't exist in literature because of the narrative string; the author talks to the reader through the narrative line.

The fifth wall in literature is the one that veils the missing fourth wall, as if the author and reader agree to not acknowledge the missing fourth wall by maintaining a one-sided relationship throughout the narrative--the reader is obligated to accept that the fourth wall has been lowered for the sake of the narrative string.

In Drinking at the Movies, Julia Wertz simultaneously creates a fifth wall and breaks it. There are a lot of moments in the book when the narration or the dialogue seems very much pointed at the reader in a casual way (the flimsy fourth wall).  But on page 162, Wertz literally comes out of the frame to speak to the reader. Wertz sets this up in the first frame by not including anything else in the frame except her body, taking her out of the context of any action or scene and putting her on my lap.  I knew immediately, "Oh, she is talking to me.  Not narrating or glancing my way, Wertz is talking to me."

The narrative line: As a white, middle-class American, I carry around a lot of guilt.  Looking at me, Wertz says, "Well, I could note that I grew up on welfare and I'm pretty poor right now, but that would just seem like a lame attempt to evoke pity and make me look cool."

Then in a small frame bridging the two main frames on the top row, Wertz puts her hand on the frame, breaking the fifth wall that is supposed to veil the reader / narrator relationship, and leans forward to say, "Did it work?"

Then the third frame (also without context of action or scene), the narrative line resumes (Luckily, the American infrastructure is designed with plenty of rationalizations…) and Wertz responds (with bored eyes), "What, It's not like I could pick where I was born. Besides, I dutifully spend 3.5 seconds feeling bad for third world countries before spending an hour trying to figure out who did or didn't get botox this year, thank you very much!"

The second and third rows of frames resume the action and scene context by including background (her apartment, a store). But in the third row, she breaks the fifth wall again by answering to the reader (with her hand on the frame), a question asked by her bottle of booze, "You mean your lonely, low-income, basement-dwelling life?" "That's the one!", Wertz replies.

This page (162) is the only time when Wertz drew herself without any background (top row frames) and the only time that she came out of the frame, breaking the fifth wall, to speak directly, without guise of the narrator incognito, to the reader.  This is also the last page of the chapter before the final chapter and I believe is the mechanism that sets up the conclusion as a "take-home message".  Wertz has let me in, she's talking to me, so that the last chapter feels more conversational and directed.  As if I'm no longer a voyeur reading about Wertz' life but am now a confidant being told about it.

Drinking at the Movies

It's hard to pick out specific moments that I want to talk about for this book, because it was such an entertaining read that I just end up wanting to quote it. In a way, it resists being thought about too critically. Julia herself avoids taking herself and her problems too seriously. Every struggle that she goes through must be prefaced by an acknowledgement of her problems as largely inconsequential. In fact, in the first few pages of the book, Julia explains how her life in San Francisco was really great. She had a great apartment, great friends, a job that she "actually liked" and a boyfriend who "wasn't an asshole." She goes on to talk about why things weren't quite as they seemed- her life was actually hard in a lot of ways. I think that sort of acknowledgment of those who have it worse off, and that impulse to downplay your problems while also mentioning them is very contemporary. I notice it in the way people will casually say, "there are starving kids in Africa," and the Internet obsession with identifying first world problems as such.

I found it interesting in that regard how rather than talk directly about her problems, Wertz uses personification to animate her wallet and her brain (who she presents as her adversaries,) separately, to do the job. In other words, we as readers learn what Julia thinks of herself through witnessing how her brain, and later, her wallet interact with her. For instance, on page 95, Julia's brain escapes in order to inform her "for her own good," why she hasn't been on a date in years:  "A date!? Oh hell no. You hate dating. It's awkward, unpleasant, and you spend the whole time wishing you were at home watching 30 rock [...] you dress like a trashcan from 1996, you're a selfish fart who prefers to be alone rather than make the effort to cultivate meaningful relationships." Her brain goes on to reference her drinking problem in the next panel. Julia's wallet, it seems, also has a drinking problem. Aside from her wallet's habit of soliciting prostitutes, one could say that Julia's wallet (and her brain, who is also kind of an unsavory character) represents a reflection of the character of Julia, and actually says a lot about her as a person. While both the wallet and the brain are constantly trying to escape from Julia (in the way that perhaps she is trying to escape from herself,) and the anecdotes that Wertz tells revolve in both instances around either her wallet or her brain "making a run for it," (see "The Wayward Wallet" starting on page 183) Julia's booze sticks by her and never judges her.

All of this is emphasized by the last page, where Julia gives her readers an amusing update of the lives of a few of the characters in her memoir in a bit entitled, "Where Are They Now?" Julia provides glimpses into the lives of only minor characters, most of whom are politicians who she doesn't even know personally. She certainly doesn't reveal anything about herself, or about any efforts on her part to get sober. Julia Wertz avoids the usual truth-seeking that one tends to encounter in memoir, as demonstrated by her inability to cope with what it takes to stop drinking. She confronts her drinking problem in a myriad of ways throughout the book, but it's almost as if her character has to hope that acknowledging it is enough, at least for now, much in the same way that acknowledging her privilege makes it okay to write about her problems.

I hope some of that makes sense. I really loved this book, and can't wait to read more by Wertz, and also to discuss with you all on Tuesday!

Drinking in Drinking at the Movies

Julia Wertz has definitely created a character you can love and hate at the same time. Love because she has the uncanny ability to tell it how it is and hate because she sometimes hates herself, creating in her an inability to cope with or see things for how they are, making her snarky to the point of being cruel. To be fair, as a twenty something, this confusion and self loathing is not unfamiliar and to many is simply part of growing up (I just read Meg Jay’s “The Defining Decade,” which goes to town on this subject). Wertz effectively portrays how she dealt with this angst by personifying her problem with alcohol as a constant, one on one battle between her and the bottle.
On page 90, “The Ambush” depicts Julia getting jumped by a team of liquor bottles who want to ruin her life. This is a direct example, but more indirect may be the fact that Julia runs to liquor whenever she feels upset. It took me almost to the middle of the book to realize Julia had a problem, about the point where she goes on the internet date and blacks out on a park bench. It made me question what I consider normative.
There are also serious moments when we see that Julia has a lot on her plate to deal with emotionally: her brother the addict, her stepfather’s cancer, and her seemingly somewhat difficult (we’re not talking Persepolis difficult, we’re talking divorced family in America difficult) childhood. What works in communicating these incidents or facts in her life is that she never states up front “I am feeling…such and such,” she instead will show how tense she gets when her brother has a relapse, and casually mention her childhood in a panel about holding babies. Julia’s oblique references show us what potential trigger factors are without her straight out saying how she feels. Considering this book definitely has a coming of age element, it seems possible that the reader is figuring out how Julia feels about things while the character herself is deciphering her own feelings.
It is apparent that Julia’s alcoholism is hand in hand with self loathing. On page 106, she has an entire page titled “How am I abusing my body today?.” It  seems she equates self care with a level of adulthood she thinks she hasn’t attained yet. That is what is so amusing about this book, the whole time Julia says that going through these difficult life experiences she is not being an adult, when in reality the experiences are transforming her into the woman she is to become. It is nice, also, that the author sheds light into what happens in the future, assuring us that Julia does quit drinking, and that the journey is one with a successful ending.
An entertaining book to end our class on! I’m excited to see what we’ll be talking about on Tuesday.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

I love you Julia Wertz

 This semester, we've all had our favorites and our least favorites. For the record, this was one of my favorites. O_o

There's so much funny!
She calls SF bagels "wizened"! (26)
She has the only PC in a sea of MACS! (111)
She want's Carl Kasell's voice on her home answering machine! (114)
"This is Julia from the trash can in a back alley in Chicago!" (170)

One distinction between this semester's authors that either we haven't made, or I haven't heard it hit home, is that some of these books are made by people who chose to represent their memoir graphically and some are comic artists who either put together a collection of work or were likely told, "Fart Party is so good, you gotta make a full length book."

One reason I bring this up is like I said when we were critiquing "Lucky", your audience and who is going to buy your books/comics can determine your content. This is true for all literature, right?
And who with power in the publishing industry isn't privileged?

There's something unsettling about young women in the U.S. questioning their privileges and social standing. We're supposed to be the stable nation with the successful young people. Marginalized communities have been being marginalized from the gate. But when even the young people with relative privileges are having a hard time in the recent economic collapse (pg 16), maybe older people with even more power will listen. Yeah right. This book isn't for that, this book is for other disillusioned young people to find solace, and that's a fine thing for it to be good for.

2007 was a rough year for me too (I was working in a movie theater with a Master's degree because it was the only job I could find in a small town in central Ilinois) so Wertz' goal "At the very least, I hope that readers will identify with some parts of this book"(7) worked for me at least.

I love how she builds and builds the pressure starting when she takes BART to the airport. After she gets yelled at by the drunk guy on BART (I know him!) she reminisces, "Aw, I'm gonna miss SF..."(19) then she tries to get on standby, then she tells the guy on the plane about getting lost in Penn Station (totally! That's where the Peter Pan buses are!) and a lady cracking her head on the sidewalk, and getting yelled at by a cabbie, and it keeps going. And then she has to sleep in the Las Vegas airport. Her deadpan delivery is not unlike an alcoholic, under the influence reportage, or someone who has normalized the highs and lows of misery.

She does the climax build up again on page 43, (It's HPV, not HIV) and page 44 while she waits in the waiting room. Being the mordant narrator that I am, I revel in Wertz' unwavering decision to end her panels with matter-of-fact gloom. "Right after a nurse announced 'we're running behind schedule because we only have one doctor today' the power went out"(44). In fact, I looked and she does it on almost every page. Check out 60 with its swath of black and the words GUILT dripping down like barf.

And the creme de la creme, on page 121 when she makes a cute sign for the tip jar and the lady says, "Really? Wow, I wouldn't think that someone who worked here could have made it". That is so classically how service workers are treated, who by now, with the other knowledge of the state of things from this book, are often degree holders. This exchange does make me feel like I found solace.

This book kind of reminds me of the section in US Weekly,"Stars, They're Just Like Us". Look at stars, they grocery shop just like we do! 
Look, Comic book artists smell like they were just f'ed by dumpsters too!

Honest Wertz: class anxiety, gentrification, and bodily space in panels

My favorite part of this graphic novel was the architecture. The spatial drawings were incredibly detailed and unique, and I loved each of the four apartments, especially the first and last. It reminded me how much a space can impress upon the mind a multitude of things, and this story about a woman moving to New York was about just that--a shifting in place that's parallel to a shifting in the mind--and I appreciated Wertz just for that: her honesty.

I felt like these four full-fledge panels depicted so much characterization of Julia when her visual description was stark and simplistic. Her eyes were the most distinct feature of her, most likely revealing that hint of tomfoolery and honesty in Julia. But her apartments--they showed who she was impressively, from the queen-size bed, the detailed rugs, plants, flowers, books, book shelves, and etc. It was interesting to see how much a living space can and does affect one's mindscape, and how his/her working space, in turn, affects one's art. I found a really interesting blog detailing Julia's workspace, and I wanted to share it here:


Back to the blog prompt. I felt like Wertz's conversations, or at least awareness, of her whiteness and privilege and in-between class statuses was interesting, but it really only scratched the surface of these problems. She ran with her white guilt with humor and ease, and at the end of the day, I really just saw them as an openness to understand differing social ills but never, really, dealing with them in any tangible or mental or crucial way. She reads up on news and complains (she calls it 'just hating' when Obama wins), but goes about her life like nothing had change. She mentions her white privilege and then cracks a few jokes about it, mentioning that she is poor, too. To me, this was interesting and I liked that there was more awareness than Gabrielle Bell's "Lucky," but it still struck a cord that sounded too familiar, specially here in the Bay Area. But--again, unlike Bell--she is at least open. She's honest. She's willing to learn about a myriad of things, and maybe, sometimes, that's enough.

My favorite panel was page 148. The iconic image of the Vietnam War haunts me. Here is the real photograph by Eddie Adams:

The image has become iconic for its anti-war message. But, it's an Western impression, as Adams wrote in Time:

“The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them; but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. ... What the photograph didn't say was, 'What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American people?'"

This makes me think of Julia Wertz's simplistic drawings. They're black and white. Sometimes she uses shading, like the panel in Chicago. She uses slanted lines to express nightfall or darkness. But overall, what did her use of portraying Barack Obama as a political symbol, or Marilyn Monroe as entertainment, or Adams's photograph as war, do or implicate, and what do her simplistic lines implicate? I guess I just wanted more from this memoir. Images speak. They do. Like Adams alluded to. There is an unspoken power to visuality.

I don't know what this memoir left me with. I feel like I'm still questioning it after I put it down.