This guy added funny comments to a few old print ads for baked goods. It made me snicker, which is about as hard as I can laugh while using the Web.
Has anyone created a better fiction genre that Carnival Sideshow Noir? Not that I know of. Here’s a short bio of one of its best authors, Nightmare Alley’s William Lindsay Gresham.
I’m doing three comic strips for web sites now. This Guru For Hire is a weekly strip about freelancers, that my wife, Carla, co-writes with me. (Here’s an archive of all my Guru comics). I do another weekly strip called Artificial Life for New Media. The site uses a lot of Java and Flash, and it won’t work on Mac’s using Explorer. I don’t know how to find the direct URL, either. If you want to read it, just go to the site. And I just started a new comic for a site called Digital Living Online, which is edited ny my friend, Gareth Branwyn. Gar is the creator of another wonderful site called Street Tech.
“Who Was Jim Tully? Novelist, journalist, lecturer, Hollywood columnist of the 1920s and 30s, road kid, chainmaker, boxer, circus handyman, tree surgeon; an inheritor of the tradition of the literary wanderer, and father of another, the school of hardboiled writing.” — From the Jim Tully page on Dennis McMillan’s site.
William M. Gaines was the publisher of Mad, as well as EC Comics, which included Tales from the Crypt and Weird Science. This transcript from Gaines’s memorial service includes photos of Mad’s Usual Gang of Idiots. I always wondered what they looked like.
Daniel P. Mannix wrote some great books in the ’50s and ’60s, including an autobiography about his years as a carnival sideshow performer, called Memoirs of a Sword Swallower. The Half-and-Half is an unpublished chapter from the book. The first two sentences are wonderful:
“Even though she was very attractive, I never could really fall in love with Frances-Francine because I didn’t know if she was a man or woman. Finally I asked her and she told me frankly, ‘I don’t know myself, Slim.'”
The Horror of Fun
If you’ve seen stickers and T-shirts sporting a menacing white alien head, then you’ve been exposed to Schwa, a project launched by artist Bill Barker nearly a decade ago. Composed of a series of picture books, bumper stickers, and inscrutable trinkets, Schwa employs an invaders-from-space motif to instill a feeling of ominous isolation and psychological totalitarinism. Barker’s latest twist on the project, a Web site called the Schwatown Midway is his most effective piece yet.
Part of the fun of any carnival is its creepiness. At any time, you expect an insane clown to jump out and knock you across the forehead with an oversized hammer. Here, on the Schawtown midway, you’re placed at the beginning of a narrow walkway flanked with games and attractions, rendered in stark 3D. The looped sample of spooky calliope music adds to the feeling of a solipsistic nightmare. Like in a real carnival, most of the games here seem simple on the surface but are maddeningly difficult to win. The “junk puzzle” — in which you try to slide a few rusty nuts and sections of re-bar to maneuver a ball bearing from one side to the other — kept me up well past my bedtime. After I’d become burned out from getting suckered at the game booths, I sneaked into various mazelike buildings on the midway and got myself into trouble by operating mysterious pieces of equipment.
Even though I never figured out what was really going on in the midway, it’s the first Web site I’ve come across that transported me into another world. The fact that my questions about the place were never really answered is a deliberate element of the piece. Schwa doesn’t explain how the world works; it creates a complex unshakable mood, one that has kept me coming back to the world of Schwa, year-after-year.