And here, for reference, is a great one by Alphonse Mucha, an artist whose work you’re going to recognize if you’ve ever fawned over a great J.H. Williams III layout or enjoyed a good Melinda Gebbie page. He did posters all over New York in the 1920’s, though he was personally Czech. More on him here; consider this clause a reminder to myself to put up some Virgil Finlay and Arthur Rackham so you know where greats like John Totleben and Charles Vess are drawing from, too.

While I’m posting comic art, here’s one of my very favorites: Gene Ha’s beautiful, beautiful cover to one of the sadly never-reprinted ABC Tomorrow Stories specials that wrapped up the loose ends still hanging after Alan Moore finished the half-dozen series he’d created for WildStorm.  Enjoy.

Good Paul on Bad Paul

William Saletan wrote what may be the single stupidest column in the history of American electoral coverage, which has a long and lamentable history, over at Slate, on the subject of this complete nitwit Paul Ryan.

Paul Krugman, Nobel-winning economist, has a suitably harsh rebuttal over at the NYT on his blog, which is rapidly becoming the best non-arts writing the Times publishes. Here are the money grafs:

“Look, Ryan hasn’t “crunched the numbers”; he has just scribbled some stuff down, without checking at all to see if it makes sense. He asserts that he can cut taxes without net loss of revenue by closing unspecified loopholes; he asserts that he can cut discretionary spending to levels not seen since Calvin Coolidge, without saying how; he asserts that he can convert Medicare to a voucher system, with much lower spending than now projected, without even a hint of how this is supposed to work. This is just a fantasy, not a serious policy proposal.

"So why does Saletan believe otherwise? Has he crunched the numbers himself? Of course not. What he’s doing – and what the whole Beltway media crowd has done – is to slot Ryan into a role someone is supposed to be playing in their political play, that of the thoughtful, serious conservative wonk. In reality, Ryan is nothing like that; he’s a hard-core conservative, with a voting record as far right as Michelle Bachman’s, who has shown no competence at all on the numbers thing.”

RIP David Rakoff 1964—2012


David Rakoff wasn’t merely a talented essayist, he was a sweet, funny, astonishingly pleasant guy and I’m sorry he’s dead, though it comes as no surprise to anyone, least of all him. If you haven’t yet read Don’t Get Too Comfortable or Half Empty, I envy you those first readings. I interviewed him once. He made an impression, obviously.

One of the funniest sections in the book [Half Empty] is your takedown of Rent, a musical that a lot of people love.

Yeah, there’s a sort of romantic notion of the artist [in that show] that doesn’t seem to involve doing any work. Far more than the Rent takedown, though, I wanted to capture what it takes to be creative, and how that feels. It’s typically the notion of sitting and tolerating oneself long enough to turn out a first draft that necessarily has to be bad, and how different that is from most other tasks, which get easier as one gets older. Turning into the perceived media representation of an artist is really the dessert that comes after years of eating vegetables.

You talk about some of the weirdest, worst aspects of being in New York in that same essay, but you really seem to love it here, too. Why is it that people who lived through the “Taxi Driver” years seem to be so attached to New York City?

The day I arrived here at age 17 I felt like this was my home, although it took many years before it actually was my home. The city seems less unique than it once was – but everywhere seems less unique than it once was, and part of that is the velocity of the information.

How do you mean?

Well, there’s that old apocryphal story of the guy who comes to a small town and discovers all these amazing antiques in a back yard. Now everyone knows the value of everything. [pause] This makes it sound like all I care about is traveling to small villages and gulling rubes out of their valuables.

There’s an essay in “Half Empty” about working on a movie that may or may not be “The First Wives Club” and you’ve been in the Oscar-winning short “The New Tenants.” Is acting something you want to continue to pursue?

I like to do audience readings – you get the sort of heroin thrill of audience response, which is lovely. I’m treated quite well in the writing world and for me to be treated as well in the acting world, I’d have to be Julianne Moore. [Solo theater performer] Mike Daisey is a total, total genius. My dream would be to do that kind of performance, but I see him, and I think, “Why would one even bother?”

Have you ever considered writing a novel?

Something happens to me: almost every time that I’ll be transcribing my notes from a story that I’ve been sent out to report, I’ll see a little detail – it’ll be the most quotidian thing, it won’t be “that’s when she took the ball-peen hammer and killed her children – and I just think, I could never do that.” So I think that I’d never make things to the satisfactory level that I’d want.

When you’re writing an essay, how does it evolve? Do you plot it out fully, or do you just sit down and go?

I wish I were better at outlining things and plotting them in advance, because it would be less torturous kind of riding-a-moving-bus-holding-on-with-my-teeth thing. The first agenda is that it be a classically familiar essay – which is a 19th-century idea – that begins in the personal and ends in the universal. So there’s a real hope and objective that I end up saying something bigger than just the initial jumping-off point.

So you want readers to focus on the bigger ideas.

Which is why I so bridle at the term memoirist – I want to be known for the way I use language and whatever style I have as a writer, as opposed to the particulars of my biography.