This Week I Have Been Mostly Hating:
…the false excitement of a Legitimate Distraction From Work (LDWF)… which is then revealed to be more hollow and worthless than the scabbed-over chest-cavity of a Divorce Lawyer.
I Fact You Right In The Face:
Over on the Do Anything blog, Warren’s been chatting merrily to the disembodied head of Jack Kirby. Juicy cerebrum-pulping yumyums (with attendant Kirbydots), which reminded me abstractly of something I read a while ago. You may’ve seen this before, but it’s so delightfully creepy it’s worth another look. It’s the report, written in 1905, of one Doctor Breaurieux, who decided to have some fun at the expense of one Henri Languille; a condemned prisoner who, thanks to attentions of a Big Bastard Guillotine, was not having a nice day.
"Here, then [writes Breaurieux] is what I was able to note immediately after the decapitation: the eyelids and lips of the guillotined man worked in irregularly rhythmic contractions for about five or six seconds… The face relaxed, the lids half closed on the eyeballs, leaving only the white of the conjunctiva visible… It was then that I called in a strong, sharp voice: "Languille!" I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions – I insist advisedly on this peculiarity – but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life with people awakened or torn from their thoughts.
"Next Languille’s eyes very definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused… I was dealing with undeniably living eyes which were looking at me. After several seconds the eyelids closed again, slowly and evenly, and the head took on the same appearance as it had had before I called out.
"It was at that point that I called out again and, once more, without any spasm, slowly, the eyelids lifted and undeniably living eyes fixed themselves on mine with perhaps even more penetration than the first time. Then there was a further closing of the eyelids, but now less complete. I attempted the effect of a third call; there was no further movement – and the eyes took on the glazed look which they have in the dead… The whole thing had lasted twenty-five to thirty seconds."
…which is wonderfully nasty, and makes you wonder how many Aristocrats spent their last instants of consciousness in the bottom of a small head-catching picnic-basket. For some reason I find the notion of my last sight being Wickerwork profoundly depressing.
Perhaps even weirder is the hypothesis the Doctor presented to explain the phenomenon:
" I consider it essential for you to know that Languille displayed an extraordinary ‘sang-froid’ and even courage from the moment when he was told his last hour had come, until the moment when he walked firmly to the scaffold. It may well be, in fact, that the conditions for observation, and consequently the phenomena, differ greatly according to whether the condemned persons retain all their ‘sang-froid’ and are fully in control of themselves, or whether they are in such state of physical and mental prostration that they have to be carried to the place of execution, and are already half-dead, and as though paralysed by the appalling anguish of the fatal instant."
Yes. You read that right. The Doctor believed Languille stayed alive for 30 seconds after having his head hacked off his body solely because was a Cold Blooded Motherfucker. We can therefore confidently posit that when she finally – oh god, finally – shuffles off her mortal handbag, the undead cranium of Maggie Thatcher will require sealing in concrete, lest its pterodactyl yammerings keep us all awake for millennia to come.
Anyway. Poor old Languille was probably one of the first people to discover that in this Modern Age you can’t expect any peace from The Fucking Scientists even while you’re busy trying to Die. Which was quite a sobering thought, to me, up until it evoked the crazy desire to leave copies of the Richard Dawkins back-catalogue lying around a Religious Hospice for terminally-ill creationists.
Heh heh heh.
The Keyboard Is My FuckMonkey:
One for the Aspiring PencilMonkeys and WurdChimps out there:
I have, in the forgotten drawer in the bubbling guts of my desk, among teenage sketches of Johnny Alpha and a wadge of research notes on Amusing Neurological Conditions – a big blue file. It contains every rejection letter I have ever received, and is one of the most useful things I own.
I spent two years hilariously oblivious to this fact. I was 16 and knew everything there is to know about everything, including religion and politics and Alice In Chains and stuff. Everything.
Every couple of months I’d send off another diabolically rubbish pitch to 2000AD – staggeringly awesome punk sci-fi anthology comics which I Still Can’t Believe You Fucking Yanks Don’t Get – and every couple of months I’d receive a short but patiently-written rejection, explaining precisely what was wrong with each one. With hindsight this was no minor gift from the editor: the urge to write "Si, really, it’s just terrible," must’ve been tough to overcome. At the time it didn’t occur to me how altruistically constructive the guy was being because, y’see, what these rejections really were, was:
Unfair. Oh yes.
This editor, I assumed, obviously hadn’t even bothered to wipe the beerfroth from his pigfucker eyes to read the shard of glittering genius that I – selflessly – had ejaculated for his benefit. Or, maybe, actually, if he had read it, then it was the fault of the submission guidelines for being wrong in the first place. I’d followed them to the fucking letter, after all – even down to the SAE and the traditional crotchrub for luck. How could he reject that?
Or (I was heroically prepared to concede), even if he truthfully hadn’t liked it, for legitimate reasons, it was still plain to everyone and anyone – "me" – that he was publishing stuff every week that was much, much worse.
I’m ashamed to confess, reader – in the armpit of youthful indignation – that I ended-up taking to sending a covering letter along with each new pitch, which explained (with helpful bulletpoints) why the previous rejection was Wrong.
I was 17. Don’t hate me.
And also don’t make the mistake of thinking I was unusual. You can see the same thing happening at every portfolio review or pitch-fair in the world. "Please tell me what you think, oh sage and noble editor," say the artists and writers of the future, "but I reserve the right to reject your wisdom, argue the toss, explain why you aren’t allowed to dislike it, and Twitter about what a lardy desiccated cunt you are afterwards."
After two years, I got what I now consider to be my best ever rejection letter. It simply says, floating like Divine Instructions in the middle of an otherwise empty piece of paper:
"No, no, no, no, no, no, no."
Which, okay, wasn’t the most constructive criticism I’d every received. But to be fair to the editor – a bloody nice bloke I now get along with swimmingly – he’d given me every fucking chance to read his advice up to that point. If I was snottily convinced he wasn’t really reading my Nuggets Of Awesome, he could fucking guarantee I wasn’t paying any attention to his.
I ignored it and sent more ideas. Tenacity, I told myself, is all it takes. The next rejection came back with:
"I’m sorry. I just don’t feel you have the spark of crazed ingenuity required to write for 2000AD."
He was wrong. Huzzah. One year later I was scripting the ongoing adventures of a likeably insane Intergalactic Torturer For Hire with an inability to sleep or feel pain, a sexual attraction to items of machinery, and – for no sensible reason – a pair of enormous lobster claws bonded to his ribs. That’s 2000AD all over, and I was in.
Why? Simply because it finally occurred to me to pull out that ever-fattening blue file and – crazy! ridiculous! – pay attention to the letters inside.
These days I get asked quite a lot – same as anyone getting paid work in comics, novels, music, art, anything remotely creative – "what’s the secret of breaking-in?" Like there’s a password.
There isn’t. There’s tenacity and talent and taking opportunities when they arise, and all the other useful tips that you’ll hear over and over (such as: follow @CBCebulski over on Twitter: he’s great at this stuff, and brutally honest). But what it alllllll boils down to – if you want the lowest common denominator of the magic Get Work recipe – is Four Words:
Take Advice. Pay Attention.
This "God" fellow of yours. I’ve heard some Things about him. Here is what I think:
If he was an animal, he’d be a Cat.
That is all.
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Send wurdz, thoughts, stories, Hatings, and Maps Made Of Music to the Only Checked Occasionally And I Might Not Bother Replying At All Ha Ha Ha email address:
Or the It Might Not Get To Me At All But If It Does I Promise To Recycle It snailmail address:
C/O William Christensen,
515 N. Century Blvd.
Rantoul, IL 61866
(Disclaimer: Secretly, I’m nice.)