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the column of lasting insignificance: Dec. 29, 2012
by John Wilcock

CRUMB TALKS is the opening of a five-page advertising essay in Taschen’s colorful catalog which is bigger and better than many actual magazines. The famously elusive cartoonist, now 69, writes that he began his series of sketchbooks, using a rapidograph pen, in 1964. “Of course, I hoped that (drawing) would get me female attention, but it didn’t work at all in that regard. Women were not attracted to guys who drew comics. It was basically the last thing on earth that had any glamour attached to it”.

Crumb Self-portrait
Taschen catalog

But his work, widely published in the underground press, subsequently inspired a biographical movie, which drew much more attention—“media pestilence and Crumbsploitation” he calls it—that brought him a notoriety “far above and beyond” his work.
    “There’s this perverse, sad thing that part of my fame is a morbid attraction to the things in my work that are bad or forbidden...And that’s what sells best....On the other hand, women are horrified by it. Trina Robbins accused me of poisoning all the younger male cartoonists who think they can draw terrible violence against women”.
    One effect of all that, Crumb writes, is that despite the value of spontaneous sketching he gave up drawing in sketchbooks. “But the fame thing has really killed it for me. I’ve just become too acutely self-conscious, and the business aspect of being an artist killed the creative playful side for me. As my fame grows and I become like some kind of fucking, you know, grand old man of graphic storytelling or whatever, it gets worse. There’s no slack. Drawing came out of a spontaneous, experimental, dreamy area of the mind. That’s no just there anymore.”
    But fortunately for the world, the ‘grand old man’ piled up a body of timeless, perspicacious work before this and Taschen offers 1,000 numbered and signed copies of six of his journals, $1,000 for each boxed set.
    In a final word from the master, quoting his wife, Crumb adds: “Aline says it’s very unattractive to complain, to whine about such things. You know everybody should have such trouble as this. I really can’t complain. I got it pretty good.”

In a recent interview, counter-cultural guru Paul Krassner paid tribute to Crumb and all the other prescient underground comic artists of the ’60s:
    “With a variety of unique styles, these artists all had in common an acute case of irreverence, a stoned-or-straight imagination, a passionate sense of humor infused with justice and raunchiness, and an uncanny ability to articulate the consciousness—and the subconsciousness—of their countercultural audience. The Cologne-based Taschen company, which began 32-years ago with its founder’s personal ‘gorgeous, stockpile of comic books’, celebrated the publication of its 1,000th book this year, a collection of expensive, gorgeous and definitive works dealing with artists, writers, architects, performers and public figures.
    Der Spiegel called its 75-pound, 700-page GOAT (Greatest of All Time), a tribute to Muhammad Ali, “the biggest, heaviest, most radiant thing ever printed in the history of civilization.” It cost $15,000.
    Sharing space with Crumb in the current catalog are full-color reproductions of the work of Gustav Klimt, Steven Heller’s wide-ranging Mid-Century Ads (“Advertising is…artificial truth”), Lawrence Schiller’s recollections of his time spent with Marilyn Monroe, jazz album covers, movies from the ‘90s. and a trio of Brit books including Barry Miles’ wonderfully-illustrated memories of ‘60s London and the recollections of the first photographer to document the Beatles There’s also a whole page of sexy books, including these (below).

Taschen catalog


Book of Days
Book of Days
The preceding from A Book of Days, Wisdom Through the Seasons Edited by Elizabeth Pepper & John Wilcock (Capra Press, 1996)



Lacking fins or tail
the gefilte fish swims with
great difficulty

Beyond Valium,
peace is knowing one's child
is an internist.

On Passover we
opened the door for Elijah.
Now our cat is gone.

CRITICS OF CUBA can find plenty to complain about, not the least of which are many of the prisoners detained unjustifiably in the country’s jails. And the dithering of a government that can’t make up its mind. Nevertheless, the US media being what it is, Cuba has rarely gotten credit for being one of the world’s major do-gooders, a story recognized in Canada’s New Internationalist. Cuba currently has more medical personnel serving abroad than all of the wealthy G-8 nations combined, the mag says, in fact there are 39,000 of them, working in 66 countries. “(They) do not engage in disaster tourism. They are there for the long run, generally working for two year periods…They do not charge their patients for medical care…access to health care is seen as the most fundamental human right and is embedded in the Cuban constitution.” Despite its own poverty, the country has extended this service to scores of poor countries over five decades, saving the lives of millions of people and extending the lives of millions of others. “Yet these profound policy initiatives have largely been ignored by the international media.”
    It hardly needs repeating here that American policy towards its impoverished island neighbor has been a disaster since its inception, Then, for half a century, a Big Bully spitefully cutting off any contact, all the while themselves being bullied by a handful of embittered Florida politicians. Just because a country doesn’t happen to share the US system of government—so-called ‘democracy’—is insufficient reason for denying its right to exist. The fear that tiny Cuba is a threat to the US has always been ridiculous.

IT ITS FINAL issue for 2012, Popular Mechanics offered some predictions for “the world of tomorrow”

  • Soldiers will wear jackets containing Peltier plates which, by means of electric currents, can warm them up or cool them down
  • Bridges will repair themselves as a new composite is able to expand to fill cracks when soaked with rain
  • Throughout the West, as a start, highways will be lined with charging stations for electric cars
  • Eventually all 130 million books on the planet will be digitized
  • Peel and stick photovoltaic solar panels will replace traditional bulky, expensive systems
  • A holographic reproduction of the Super Bowl can be watched in the center of your living room
  • Navy SEALs will be able to hold their breath under water for hours
  • Ions of xenon gas accelerated by an electric field will fuel a space ship for years of travel enabling visits to Alpha Centauri

Happy Christmas to all my faithful readers




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