In high school I read a book by Robert Ornstein called Multimindthat really affected me. It made the case that we are only able to utilise ten percent of our total brain power because of the way that information is stored, basically in 'like-bundles', and this design limits how much information that can be accessed at one time. He uses the metaphor of the brain having to switch 'gears' when we move our focus from, say, drawing all day long, to anything that requires a different part of the brain, such as washing the dishes, or having a conversation in the English language (that's my excuse, anyway.) This reviewer puts it well:"The human mind is viewed as many small minds, each operating independently and specialized in one task. In other words, the body contains many centers of control. The lower level ones developed millions of years ago for basic survival activities, and humans share them with other animals. The most recent ones (e.g., the cortex) deal with decisions, language, reasoning. The brain is not a single whole, it is a confederation of more or less independent brains."
Anyway, this theory helps me understand why his blog tends to veer through phases of obsession. There are stretches of long winded personal anecdotes, then a period with nothing but comic reviews, my Tezuka and Miyazaki fixations, and of course, the periods of no posting at all when I have to keep my focus back on my 'real' job. In general I found that where I am is usually where I want to stay, at least until I convince myself to go somewhere else.
The latest phase seems to be wanting to write about magazines I've read, the latest being the January 17th issue ofThe New Yorker. They've been featuring a lot of work by comic artists in the last several months, and this one includes a nice illustration by Ben Katchor, another of Leonardo Da Vinci by Jooste Swarte, and a new strip by Art Spiegelman (which I will spell correctly for a change). I might have a slight bias, but my favourite illustrations in the magazine are always by people that are comic artists first and illustrators second.
If Spegielman's strip OY! We got dem inauguration day blues again!was a a pop song, I'd say it was overproduced. He uses Gustave Dore, the lyric's to Mood Indigo and Little Nemo to depict 'Blue' Americans drowning in their tears and taking getting on board the Ark to sail to Canada. Didn't make me laugh, didn't make me think, but it looks darn pretty. If there's anything that I find somewhat of a let down about the current bunch of comics running in the New Yorker, it’s the fact that I feel like the artists aren't doing more with the opportunity. I've heard that the New Yorker editorial staff wields very strong control over its artists and writers, so it's possible that when Aline and R. Crumb, for example, were comissioned to create the strip that ran january 3rd issue they were instructed to "Just do another of your those jam strips that you do, an make it real light and semi- amusing and don't worry about it too much." That said, I enjoyed the Ware strip 'Dick Public' that ran several weeks ago quite a bit.
There's also a substantial article on Miyazaki, in advance of the upcoming Disney video releases of Nausicaa, Porco Rosso and and the cinematic release of Howl's Moving Castle
The Miyazaki article is by Margaret Talbot, and begins with a detailed description of the Ghibli Museum, which I was pining for the other day after Rita Street's description of it on Cartoon Brew. Overall the article focuses on Miyazaki's life more than his work, and he comes across as deeply pessimistic. The writer includes a long description of a working session with his animators that was part of the special features on the Spirited Away DVD, in which he bemoans the fact that none of his animators have ever had a pet dog. It's a hilarious scene, and I think that Miyazaki's own amusement was lost somewhat in the description. But she does talk about him being jolly later on, on the rooftop of the studio looking out over Tokyo, talking about how much he's looking forward to the inevitable decline of modern civilization and the return of the long grasses and forest animals.
The article reinforced for me something that I've realised over the years; that being an great artist of his stature requires more commitment and sacrifice than I would ever be willing to give (I hope it doesn't imply here that I always had the option to be great or not great and have chosen the latter). There's a portion when Margaret Talbot talks to his Miyazaki's son, Goro, currently the curator of the museum, who remembers that as a child the only time he ever saw his father was when he came home to sleep. For all Miyazaki's talk about thinking that children today have too many DVDs, Video games and Virtual Reality, when they should be spending more time experiencing 'Reality Reality', I wondered when he himself would ever have the time to do so, given that he seldom leaves work before midnight, takes no holidays and has only recently started taking Sundays off.