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Finally... A movie for the 1% Nation: AMERICAN SPLENDOR IS NOW PLAYING AT A THEATER NEAR YOU!!!!!
August 19, 2003 2:32 PM   Subscribe

SEE! Harvey Pekar, file clerk extraordinaire, wrestle with mortality. DREAM!! with Harvey as he plots to re-sell his used books and records for absurdly inflated prices. FEAR!!! for your sanity as Harvey takes you deep into the bowels of a Cleveland veteran's hospital. RAGE!!!! with Harvey at the aggression and general obtuseness of people around him. He's a reasonable guy. He's also a noted jazz critic, book reviewer and radio commentator. Now Playing At A Theater Near You.
posted by y2karl (80 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Paul Giamatti, the lead in American Splendor, was on Conan O'Brien last week talking about it. It was funny. Good contribution by me.
posted by crazy finger at 2:52 PM on August 19, 2003


Nice looking FPP, y2karl. That "Our Cancer Year" is heavy stuff. Thanks.
posted by squirrel at 3:34 PM on August 19, 2003


WRATH!!!
posted by carfilhiot at 3:36 PM on August 19, 2003


I saw the movie last night and absolutely loved it. On the other hand, I've been a huge Pekar fan for almost 20 years (alas, I didn't get on board quite soon enough to get my hands on issue #1), so I may not be a representative sample. But the man is definitely an American classic. Thanks for the link, y2karl!

There's a review on tv as I write! Synchronicity!
posted by languagehat at 3:53 PM on August 19, 2003


Well--annoying tags or not--I am pumped about the picture. American Splendor, in it's graphic novel glory, has something very akin to what's best about confessional weblogs--his stories are funny, honest and devoid of phoniness, device or pretension. The people in them are the people I've worked with, met at parties, talked to at grage sales. The guy is an opinionated crank and yet there is a sweetness to him, too. He's a real person. I love reading his and Joyce Brabner's interviews--we share the same tastes and shop at the same places.

I so relate to their struggles and find the story of their late success gloriously uplifting. And it does sound like a fun movie. I know I'm going to see it.
posted by y2karl at 4:05 PM on August 19, 2003


NPR has been (in journalist lingo) covering the fuck out of this for the past 2 weeks. Anyone catch the Fresh Air with Pekar & wife?
posted by scarabic at 4:16 PM on August 19, 2003


Now Playing At A Theatre Near You.

Since everyone here obviously lives in NY, LA, Cleveland or Toronto.

It opens a little wider this weekend, but doesn't reach the sticks of Detroit until the 29th. And I'll wait another week after that to avoid having to drive across town to the artsy theatre with lousy sound.

I had never really heard of the guy before, but the buzz has slowly seeped into my brain and reached critical mass when I watched the trailer. Finally a movie I can look forward to! It's been awhile... since last year, actually.
posted by pmurray63 at 4:22 PM on August 19, 2003


really interesting blog....
Can't wait to see the movie.
thanks.
posted by Espoo2 at 4:55 PM on August 19, 2003


Saw it on Sunday. I've never read Pekar although I probably will now. Definitely worth seeing. Prior knowledge not required.
posted by velacroix at 4:58 PM on August 19, 2003


Am I the only one who was disappointed with "American Splendor?" I found the characters and humor tired, and the pomo gimmicks only thinly veiled a pretty lame Hollywood biopic. That stuff may have been groundbreaking in 70s comic books, but in the movies, we've seen it all before. Here's a self-link to my review. Sorry for the popus.
posted by muckster at 5:41 PM on August 19, 2003


Here's an expression of utter distinterest in your review.
posted by y2karl at 5:51 PM on August 19, 2003


Why? You only want to hear the hype?
posted by muckster at 5:57 PM on August 19, 2003


Sorry for the popus.

So is Mel Gibson's father.

/rimshot

Thanks, I'm here all week. Try the veal.
posted by pmurray63 at 6:27 PM on August 19, 2003


Here's an expression of utter distinterest in your review.

Yeesh, only glowing reviews allowed, huh?

I actually agreed with muckster about American Splendor (hokiness/flatness, esp compared with the comic), but was reluctant to say so. What's with the "utter disinterest" in opposing views?
posted by dhoyt at 7:20 PM on August 19, 2003


You have no interest in the movie; he has no interest in your lack of interest. Seems fair to me. Everybody expresses their views here at Cafe Metafilter.
posted by languagehat at 8:01 PM on August 19, 2003


Here's an expression of utter distinterest in your review.

Wow, that's kind of a shitty thing to say. Can you just not tolerate dissent, or is muckster one of the people (hama7, faze, crunchland, me, xmutex) that you have a grudge against?
posted by jonson at 8:01 PM on August 19, 2003


You have no interest in the movie;

Hmm, I don't think that's all true for either Muckster or me, or else we'd never have bothered paying to see such a marginalized/specialized movie with any kind of expectations. I love Harvey Pekar, but was disappointed with the final product--simple as that.

Everybody expresses their views here at Cafe Metafilter

Yes. Karl did, and then we did. And then Karl said he was "disinterested" in that sort of opinion. And that kind of sucks.
posted by dhoyt at 9:13 PM on August 19, 2003


Not as much as this continued interested in his disinterest.
posted by rcade at 9:26 PM on August 19, 2003


Something happened to my noun there. I thought Harvey Pekar was the master of exploring the soul-destroying mundanity of everyday life, but we could probably teach him lessons.
posted by rcade at 9:27 PM on August 19, 2003


My college friend Dr. Mike ended up working with Pekar; he made it onto a cover.

I do think it's possible to like Harvey Pekar, like American Splendor, like Paul Giamatti, and still think the movie sucks ass. Isn't that the usual complaint? The writer/director team's previous, um, notable achievement was Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's (1997).
posted by dhartung at 9:29 PM on August 19, 2003


Did you see that on IFC tonight, dhartung? Quite a good little film. Of course, that's only my opinion, and y2karl has every right to be utterly and completely disinterested in it.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:47 PM on August 19, 2003


I went for a bike ride and found myself faintly wishing along the way that I hadn't said that so harshly. Still, here's a self-link to my review seemed a tad self-important at the time. I know, I know, I should talk...

I was just irked at the time. It's all too easy to write in heat. As we all do from time to time. It's all a matter of taste. It's like jonmc telling me which root beer is the very best--the one he likes. muckster's opinion of the movie is as valid as mine? Well, duh. I'm just not interested in it at this time.

Then I came back to read this petty hairsplitting. Hey, let's make a big deal out of everything anyone says, no matter how inconsequential or of the moment it is. rcade is right on the money about the soul-destroying mundanity.

And jonson--give it a rest. I'm not the one holding a grudge here.
posted by y2karl at 12:52 AM on August 20, 2003


Just contributing to the discussion you started, karl. It's kinda like inviting somebody to your party and then kicking them out because they brought the wrong kind of liquor. Somebody might have enjoyed this here Pernod.

Now, here's another movie for you to hype, Karl: Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanson. This one's actually very, very good, so don't take it easy on the exclamation marks, ok? I promise I won't spoil the excitement.

I emailed you about this twice now. I don't understand the hostility.
posted by muckster at 7:19 AM on August 20, 2003


Jesus, drop the attitude about self links within discussions. That's exactly where they belong, and that's always been the policy.
posted by NortonDC at 8:11 AM on August 20, 2003


Then I came back to read this petty hairsplitting. Hey, let's make a big deal out of everything anyone says, no matter how inconsequential or of the moment it is.

Way to suck all the good cheer out of an apology.
posted by dhoyt at 8:52 AM on August 20, 2003


Summary

Front page post: Hey, there's a movie coming out that you should see!

Thread comment: Yeah, I didn't really like it.

Poster: Screw you. Who asked?


Lovely.
posted by Skot at 9:02 AM on August 20, 2003


I emailed you about this twice now. I don't understand the hostility.

Pardon me for being pissed this moment but this is ridiculous. Hostility? What hostility is there in saying your opinion is as valid as mine? What hostility is there in regretting using a harsh tone? I was not in the mood to read more than you wrote outside the link--I think I got the gist there. I may read it later--who knows, I may agree. After all, you have seen the movie. I have no opinion on the movie, I haven't seen it yet. I really llike Harvey Pekar and I'm excited about the movie. Where does my excitement about its subject disparage your opinion about its execution? And where did I say other people shouldn't read or respect your opinion?

I went to bed @ 11:30 last night. Neither of your precious emails had yet arrived. So sue me for not staying online 24/7 to respond. Once more talking s-l-o-w-l-y: your opinion is as valid as mine in matters of taste and obviously your opinion on American Splendor is more informed at this moment. Or must I sacrifice my first born to your self-link before you are satisfied?
posted by y2karl at 9:24 AM on August 20, 2003


Now I see, from muckster's email, that he's evidently a movie critic for About.com and gets paid for making reviews. He asked if I was shilling for the movie in his email--I thought it was safe to assume that you would be interested in a movie you post about, but instead you just want to hype it? Are you being paid for advertising it on Metafilter?--but I express my opinions on my own dime. I am not making one goddamn cent off my association with this site in any way, yet I get accused of it by someone who evidently does. Does he get paid by the the click? If so, this is surreal.
posted by y2karl at 11:10 AM on August 20, 2003


I express my opinions on my own dime.

Matt's dime, but you never did give a shit about that. Also, it's bad form to quote a private email in a public forum.
posted by sennoma at 11:21 AM on August 20, 2003



posted by dhoyt at 11:36 AM on August 20, 2003


Does he get paid by the the click? If so, this is surreal.

Do you have any evidence that he does, or are you just making unfounded accusations in the hope that some of your mud will stick?

You keep implying that there's something wrong with him linking to something that he wrote. According to the guidelines:

(note: it's ok to link to your own things as comments in threads, if it adds to the discussion and/or saves space because you're written a reply elsewhere)

You were a jerk. You apologized very poorly, and you continued being a jerk. Stop.
posted by anapestic at 11:42 AM on August 20, 2003


This thread is kind of like watching Pekar during one of his Letterman appearances. That is, entertaining for all the wrong reasons.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:21 PM on August 20, 2003


dhoyt may have just earned a Pissing Elephant award for great and apt use of images.
posted by COBRA! at 12:32 PM on August 20, 2003


No, I'm not slinging mud. He made an unfair accusation of me in private and I got offended and wrongly brought it up here. And you are right, sennoma, that it's wrong to quote people without permission. I apologize to muckster and you all for that. I just got pissed when I read that email and realized he might have a financial interest in people clicking on his link after he accused me of shilling. I may be expressing myself on Matt's dime but I sure as hell am not making a cent in doing so.

I got irked and got snarky in one comment. I then had the sense to back down. I merely said that I thought that it seemed self-important to me at the time. I gave what was my immediate reaction and then noted in the next sentence that I had no room to talk. I just described my feelings at the time I made the remark, I didn't say they were justified. I did not imply anywhere there was something wrong with him linking to his opinion.

And once again, where in that one initial sentence did I say his opinion was invalid or that people shouldn't read it? These are all after the fact interpetations. I explained myself. If you can't accept that, I'm sorry. I have no beef with muckster and I have enjoyed his comments and respected his opinions in the past and expect to do in the future. I don't read minds, myself--if you all know better than I what I meant, I'm at a real disadvantage. OK, that's it for me.
posted by y2karl at 12:55 PM on August 20, 2003


Do you have any evidence that he does, or are you just making unfounded accusations in the hope that some of your mud will stick?

I don't have a problem with acknowledged self-links in comments, even if the page might make some money for the author.

However, y2karl's comment about being paid isn't unfounded.

From guide.about.com: "All Guides share a portion of 30% of About's net ad revenues. Guide compensation is paid out based on traffic to Guide sites as a percentage of total traffic on the About network of sites."
posted by rcade at 1:16 PM on August 20, 2003


Since Karl's been quoting from my emails, I wish he'd picked this part from my original message:
Do you just not want anything to ruin your anticipation (I can understand that), or are you offended at the self-link? I'm always very self-conscious about doing that, but it seems that when something's being discussed that I've already written about elsewhere, a link is appropriate. Note that I tried to sum up my points and didn't just drop a "review" link in there, precisely so that I'd be contributing without asking people to go to my site. I do make money off the About.com site, and that's why I don't link to it lightly. But short of cutting-and-pasting, it's the only option, and linking is what the net is for.
I specifically mentioned the pop-ups with the self-link to make it obvious that there's advertising, which generally means that somebody gets paid. If that's a problem, don't click. And if you think I'm getting rich off my site (or the traffic a link on metafilter drives there), you're nuts. But of course, if Matt preferred I didn't occasionally link to my writing elsewhere when it pertains, I won't.

Enough. I have plenty more to say but I'll save it. If anybody has any questions or comments, I'm glad to answer via email. I'll make sure to stay away from your posts in the future, Karl. It's really too bad--I was looking forward to discussing "American Splendor."
posted by muckster at 5:09 PM on August 20, 2003


OK, I haven't seen this movie, or do I know anything about this Pekar character (I did see the movie "Pecker" though, does that count?), but that Jazz review was one of the most pathetic reviews I have ever read. Surely he has written something more compelling to warrent a "notable" title?

That said, his comic books look like they might be interesting, and I've enjoyed R. Crumb's stuff too in the past. I'm not sure I have much interest in seeing this movie, but who knows, I might sneak in the back door.....
posted by Eekacat at 6:07 PM on August 20, 2003


Sorry for the obligato but I must respond:

I don't have a problem with acknowledged self-links in comments, even if the page might make some money for the author.

I totally agree with what rcade said. muckster has every right to make what pitifully few cents he does off whatever clicks he gets from members here.

Do you just not want anything to ruin your anticipation (I can understand that) ?
If I had read your email last night, I would have answered Yes!
And how can I discuss a movie I haven't seen?

I wrote one harsh sentence which I soon regretted and said so. I've apologized. I made no insinuations of base motives until they were made of me. I will read your review, muckster, after I see the movie.

...your opinion is as valid as mine in matters of taste and obviously your opinion on American Splendor is more informed at this moment.

I have no beef with muckster and I have enjoyed his comments and respected his opinions in the past and expect to do in the future.

Where is the mortal insult in those sentences?
posted by y2karl at 6:18 PM on August 20, 2003


Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff.
posted by muckster at 6:58 PM on August 20, 2003


I think it's all perfectly natural for this thread to get derailed the way it has. American Splendor is all about finding drama of soap operatic proportions in the life of a loser nebbish, after all.
posted by crunchland at 7:27 PM on August 20, 2003


That is all too true, crunchland.

Oh, and for the record--I must confess the first five sentences posted, sans exclamation points, came from here. I linked the cover jpg and forgot to work a link to this page, and a comment regarding the fact the movie was written out of this collection. I meant to mention it long ago but got caught up in the sturm and drang.
posted by y2karl at 8:28 PM on August 20, 2003


Sorry for the obligato but I must respond

Indeed you must. I believe you may in fact have some sort of disease that compels you to do so...
posted by jonson at 9:43 PM on August 20, 2003


Jonson: Two messages in this discussion and you have yet to say a single thing about Harvey Pekar or American Splendor. Wild idea here, but maybe you wouldn't be enmeshed in grudges if you didn't spend so much effort nursing them.

Eekacat: Harvey Pekar is notable for not being notable. His comics attempt to portray his real life on its own terms by steadfastly resisting the temptation to turn any of it into a good story. (Which, of course, fails -- the story of his life without any dramatic veneer is more interesting for the lack of it.) Since you like Crumb, you'll probably like Pekar's comics.
posted by rcade at 6:48 AM on August 21, 2003


This might be the time to sell off my American Splendors. I urge you all to see and love this movie. Then visit eBay!
posted by thirteen at 7:59 AM on August 21, 2003


Although Harvey Pekar's name will forever be associated with Robert Crumb, his actual collaborations with Crumb are very few and all contained in the book "Bob and Harv's Comics." The vast majority of "American Splendor" comics are drawn by artists whose work ranges from the bad-by-comparison-with-Crumb to the simply, childishly, amateurishly awful (whoever drew "Our Cancer Year"). Pekar is of no interest whatever, except as an asterisk to the career of Robert Crumb, that towering figure of late 20th century drawing and culture. Without Crumb, Pekar is just some depressed guy with not particularly original insights, no sense of humor and an inflated sense of self importance. For some reason, patronizing him makes some people (Letterman, others) feel important.
posted by Faze at 10:00 AM on August 21, 2003


That's about the oddest take on Harvey Pekar I've ever read, Faze. How does promoting an obscure, cantankerous comic book writer make David Letterman or anyone else feel important?
posted by rcade at 10:45 AM on August 21, 2003


rcade -- such behavior has been the practice of the insecure upper-middle class since the beginning of time. It allows them to condescend to someone so clearly and publicly inferior to themselves. Not only do these people condescend to Pekar -- who, to tell you the truth, is not someone you'd really like to meet, they condescend and patronize Cleveland. By showing that they are able to patronize someone as low and socially out of it as Pekar, they magnify the gap between themselves and the Pekars of this world, and so elevate their own apparent importance. Of course, Cleveland itself is part of the joke. Pekar (and, independently) "American Splendor" the film portray Cleveland as the bottom rung of hell (although I admit that the medical records department in any hospital anywhere is very close to that). You'd never know that Cleveland is a beautiful, green, pleasant city, with abundant parks and countryside within less than 20 minutes from downtown, grand and affordable housing, great suburban schools, offering one of the easiest lifestyles imaginable -- a nice, joyous kind of city with lots, and lots, and lots of water for every possible purpose. People who live the difficult and expensive lifestyles of NY, LA and CHI, need to convince themselves that places like Cleveland are hellholes, and people like Harvey Pekar are their typical inhabitants. The joke's on them.
posted by Faze at 11:05 AM on August 21, 2003 [1 favorite]


...some depressed guy with not particularly original insights, no sense of humor and an inflated sense of self importance.

*bites tongue*
posted by y2karl at 11:07 AM on August 21, 2003


Pekar sounds like a nice enough guy to me. Letterman, by the way, is an Indianapolis native. Though he may be rich now, he's most definitely not alienated from the Midwest or middle class Americans. Letterman is a complex individual but I think his affection for Pekar was evident the first few times the latter appeared on Letterman's show.

And I will add this--my flip remark to muckster the day before yesterday was very ill considered and unfair. I wrote and posted it in haste. I want to see the movie before I read a critical review. Then there was this comedy of errors between muckster and I where we emailed each other and posted in haste and heat. But it ended graciously between us offsite of here. It's hard to back down when you have your back up--especially when you have a person following you from thread to thread to taunt you. Part of my heat came from that. Again, apologies to all for yesterday's derail, and to muckster for the comment that started it.
posted by y2karl at 11:44 AM on August 21, 2003


y2karl, Pekar is a very nice guy. Unlike us. But it's just possible that people make way too much of him so that they might inflate themselves by comparison.
posted by Faze at 1:07 PM on August 21, 2003


I always figured that Letterman promoted Pekar for the same reason he adopted Larry "Bud" Melman, Mujibur, and Sirajul. It's funny to make celebrities out of real people, especially if they have idiosyncracies that can be played to the hilt.

I think Pekar is of continuing literary interest beyond his ability to be caricatured as a rube from a flyover state. It's a pretty harsh assessment to say that he's of "no interest whatever," especially when his work is more intelligent and compelling than 99 percent of what's being printed in comics. As a Crumb fan, you should at least give the guy credit for making unusual use of his medium.
posted by rcade at 1:15 PM on August 21, 2003


who, to tell you the truth, is not someone you'd really like to meet...

Pekar is a very nice guy...


I see...
posted by y2karl at 2:46 PM on August 21, 2003


y2karl, Pekar's kindly and thoughtful, but not sparkling. I certainly have nothing against him personally and wish him all the best with the film and with his health. But there's something infantile about the lionization of symbolic losers like Pekar, Charles Bukowski, Harry Smith and Neal Cassidy. Robert Crumb has portrayed himself as a loser, but he is frighteningly successful in real life, and through his freakish skill, enormous energy, and faithfulness to his obsessions, has brought the whole world around to his side. He is a genuine adult success in an adult world. Independent. Self supporting. He cannot be patronized. The Pekars and -- yes -- "Bud" Melman's of this world come to our attention through patrons who exhibit them as curios. They are comfortingly small. Success -- on the other hand -- is scary. One of the most wholesome things the boomer generation ever did was adore the Beatles, who -- for a time -- personified success in so many endeavors. Unfortunately for us, while we were still adoring their successful selves, the pressure became too much for them, and they went on -- with the exception of Paul -- to embrace failure in various forms: Ringo as a drinker, George by making crappy music, and Lennon by handing over his soul and talent to a wicked prostitute. So there is something infantile about admiring post-Beatles John Lennon -- uxorious, drug-addicted, tone-deaf, who comes to us through the patronage of his younger self, and rants from the gutter, while the whole world of happiness and success lies before him.
posted by Faze at 5:58 PM on August 21, 2003


I disagree Faze. with every one of your assertions. I do not see Harvey Pekar as a failure. I see his story as one of hope. I don't know where you get this patronizing crap,either. That's another crackpot projection, as far as I can see. You are just sharing your nightmare fantasies.

Just here, you've gone from

Pekar is just some depressed guy with not particularly original insights, no sense of humor and an inflated sense of self importance.

Pekar -- who, to tell you the truth, is not someone you'd really like to meet

to all of a sudden, he's a thoughtful, kindly, if not sparkling person. Why don't you stick to your unrelentingly harsh initial assessment?

Of course, Cleveland itself is part of the joke. Pekar (and, independently) "American Splendor" the film portray Cleveland as the bottom rung of hell

I haven't seen the movie but there is nothing, nothing in American Splendor that particularly demeans Cleveland. I don't know where you get this crap.

You have all these kneejerk hateful opinions--like you just wrote above--handing over his soul and talent to a wicked prostitute. This may be your opinion but it is not widely held nor based on real facts. It's typical of your opinions, however. I never cared for Yoko Ono's music but I would never call her a prostitute.

Here is one of your many factually challenged harsh assessments:

Do you think Aline Kaminsky or Harvey Pekar's wife have the slightest idea of what their husbands do? In Kaminsky's case, she had some kind of vague, animal-like instinctual recognition that it might be important (after all, it makes SOME money), and that it's made her husband famous (which is what SHE wants to be), but outside of that, she doesn't have a clue.

Here's another of your derisive errors:

But in the matter of Ian Tyson, I believe that he rode the coattails of Sylvia Fricker for the greater part of his career. I mean, I love Ian's voice, it's one of the great voices of the 60s folk era. But Sylvia -- man, what a songwriter! She was responsible for their best material ("There is a young man that I know...")

Guess what, Faze? Tyson wrote by far the bulk of their songs. Not only that but his songs are better crafted lyrically and melodically. You Were On My Mind and Gifts Are For Giving don't match Someday Soon, The French Girl or These Friends of Mine in terms of melodic reach and lyrical complexity. And I could name so many more of their songs that he wrote. And I could go into the technical limitations of Sylvia Fricker's voice. Tyson can sing country jazz as well as Willie Nelson--he did a swinging Blue Moon when I saw him last. That's more than just a trick vibrato.

I have to say I just noticed that, apart from Sylvia Fricker, the women you mention seem to be prostitutes or clueless goldbricks sucking up their husbands' successes. What is up with that?


Robert Crumb has portrayed himself as a loser, but he is frighteningly successful in real life, and through his freakish skill, enormous energy, and faithfulness to his obsessions, has brought the whole world around to his side. He is a genuine adult success in an adult world. Independent. Self supporting.

Bullshit. Crumb was riding high in the early 70s, raking in the dough by having his lawyer threaten to sue anyone who merchandised his Keep On Trucking panels from Zap #1. He raked in thousands of dollars. He lost the suit on the Keep On Trucking poster in 1976 and got hammered by the IRS for $30,000--very big money then--and divorced his first wife. He didn't dig himselfout of that hole for years. He was in a funk and got bailed out at one point by being hired by Stewart Brand to do illustrations for CoEvolution Quarterly. (Best Buy Comics / by R. Crumb. -- All stories and strips first published in Coevolution Quarterly except "Aline and Bob go to the Whole Earth Jamboree." 1979) If you ever read Dirty Laundry, there's a fairly good slice of that period. They were living in a trailer, at one point, for Christ's sake. At one point he went back to Cleveland to draw greeting cards for Hallmark Cards--another symbol of everything he loathes about America--working for the Man, because he needed the money. He and Aline struggled through those years, and she had a great deal to do with him getting his his butt in gear and his finances in order. She helped him start and later edited Weirdo--where it's obvious from their autobiographical work there that she ran the house so he could work at his drawing. Your version of Crumb as a regular Arnold Schwarzenegger in drive and ambition, making it all on his own power, bears absolutely no relation to any account of his life of which I know. He struggled.

But it's what fits your story of these people. Pekar is a loser, Harry Smith is a fraud. But Crumb is a superman, a dynamo who zoomed upward in a steady arc, all by himself.. with no help from anyone, especially a woman.

I don't see much point in going on--I see Pekar's story as--how did Andy Spletzer just put it?--the poetry of the everyday experience and the triumph of a very real person, candid, honest and totally without pretense. I see a story of hope. You see a loser.

That's how it is with us, Faze. I come from the planet Hope and you come from the planet Hate. I like someone, find hope in his story, enjoy his art, make a post and you come along to tell me how much you despise him and trash him down in misinformed detail. I tell you what--why don't you start posting?

Write about something or someone you like, really really care about. Put a lot of time into it. Then I'll come along--playing the embittered defeated dad screaming at the TV--to totally dismiss and deride the hell out of it and pull 'facts' out of my ass to support my contempt for your subject. Sometime why don't you try talking about what you like without always trashing at extreme length and harshness what someone else written?
posted by y2karl at 11:41 PM on August 21, 2003


Man, I can't believe some of the stuff I write--Planet Hope vs planet Hate--Jesus! But I hope you get the picture. jonson will be along to ask me his generic Why do you hate Faze so taunt next, I suppose. I don't hate you. Who you are, I don't know. I have little respect for your opinions--not because they are very weird and very bitter--but because they are very unrelated to any facts. Fair or not, you come across to me as someone who has to rain on everyone's parade. You serve a bitter tonic by the gallon, Faze. You have a very strange view of the world.
posted by y2karl at 12:09 AM on August 22, 2003


Beautiful post, y2karl. This thread is rapidly becoming one of my all-time favorites.
posted by rcade at 5:16 AM on August 22, 2003


Of course, Cleveland itself is part of the joke. Pekar (and, independently) "American Splendor" the film portray Cleveland as the bottom rung of hell

But the highlight of the day was when we stopped at this American family restaurant, set up cafeteria style. I have been going to a lot of Oriental restaurants, not only since we got to California, but just before, in Cleveland. All I can eat in Oriental restaurants is vegetable fried rice. But everybody else wants to go, and who am I to stand in their way? But in this American family restaurant I got to eat a veggie burger and French fries and orange (soda) pop and carrot cake and all the condiments (pickles, onions) I wanted. Boy, it was like being home again and really mellowed me out.

It was solemnly reported that Harvey was somehow uncouth and I was wearing a plebian green hooded sweatshirt. This is because I come from Cleveland. Joanna Connors, from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, would have seen a sea foam colored poplin windbreaker, tailored by London Fog and bought at 40% off from Kaufman’s. And it matched my skirt, blouse and socks.


Faze: On the facts, invariably--in the words of John McLaughlin--

WRONG!
posted by y2karl at 2:17 PM on August 22, 2003


Do you ever notice, in your conversations with Faze, that yours dwell on personal aspects about him ("You serve a bitter tonic by the gallon, Faze. You have a very strange view of the world." "I have to say I just noticed that, apart from Sylvia Fricker, the women you mention seem to be prostitutes or clueless goldbricks sucking up their husbands' successes. What is up with that?"), while his are merely comments about the content of the post? Doesn't that bother you?
posted by jonson at 3:05 PM on August 22, 2003


Do you ever notice you appointed yourself my personal hall monitor since our little set to and falsely accuse me of holding grudges every chance you get--not simply being satisfied with doing it on your user page. You made a profession out of persecuting rushmc long before he had ever said smack against you. You embarrassed yourself with the pre-op transsexual schtick in your little thread and you hold on to it with pride after two phony apologies and even upped the ante on your slur against him by calling him a drama queen--a perception shared only by you. This is the third comment you've made in this thread attacking me. I haven't said smack against you since our little set to. Many people here get into feuds, get on each other's nerves. What makes you single me out and pursue me? A burning desire for justice or a hurt ego because I once called you a thread moderating passive-aggressive sadist and a narcissist? We all get called names, sometimes unfairly--often by you. Get over yourself, jonson, I'm leaving you alone. If you have a comment related to Harvey Pekar, make it. Otherwise grow up and move on. I'm not hounding you.
posted by y2karl at 3:27 PM on August 22, 2003



posted by dhoyt at 3:31 PM on August 22, 2003


You are another hall monitor, dhoyt--most of your comments in the blue are about other members, let alone the gray, never the topic. You just come in and take a dig and leave. Do you have a comment about Harvey Pekar or American Splendor or do you just want to take a smug superior shot?
posted by y2karl at 3:35 PM on August 22, 2003


Or is that you--as usual--on the right above?
posted by y2karl at 3:39 PM on August 22, 2003


So... then, I guess you're saying you HAVEN'T noticed that thing where you say mean personal comments about Faze even when he says none about you? Or just that it doesn't bother you to be that kind of a guy? As for what makes me single you out, I'm not picking on you. Whenever someone says something that bothers me here I tend to point it out. Just so often the person saying rude or unpleasant things turns out to be you (see your current MeTa thread for pissing on xmutex's blog, or your snotty comment (and subsequent apology) to muckster in this very thread). You're just not a very nice person, and I find it all too tempting to poke at you every time I see you acting mean/rude/shitty, because I know it vexes you so. But you're right, I should let it lie. I'll try harder.
posted by jonson at 5:26 PM on August 22, 2003


You are another hall monitor, dhoyt--most of your comments in the blue are about other members, let alone the gray, never the topic. You just come in and take a dig and leave. Do you have a comment about Harvey Pekar or American Splendor or do you just want to take a smug superior shot?

Look, Captain LastWordItis, I had plenty to say about the movie when I saw your post and then once I witnessed what a creepy, insular, protective vibe you cast over the thread, I had no interest in saying anything more about it--to you. I'm happy talking with my friends about it as they don't tend to lord their opinions over me as if I simply "don't get it".

Take a look back at the comments in this thread from people who've objected to your shitty attitude and half-ass apology. And instead of backing off and doing the honorable thing, you come back time and again, living up to every stereotype jonson, et al, have attributed to you. Amazing.

And you interpret my posting of pics as "cheap shots" in this thread, Mr. Teletubbies? That's really fucking rich, and hypocritical even for you. FYI, the pic was a simple joke regarding you and jonson's ongoing dead-horse feud, and not aimed at your commentary on Pekar.

So go ahead Karl. Deliver five paragraphs of erudite explanation-cum-nonApology and backpeddling and analysis. Cover all your mundane bases. Footnote everything. Tag it all with pop-up layers. Get in the last word. Be my guest.
posted by dhoyt at 5:30 PM on August 22, 2003


Whenever someone says something that bothers me here I tend to point it out.

Me, I try to stay out of other people's fights if I can help it. What's between Faze and I is between Faze and I. You and I have had differences. You are the last person to monitor me and tell me what to do because you have no objectivity. For you, my default is that I am wrong while yours is that you are right. Your faults are just as glaring to me as mine are to you and in as microscopic detail but I am trying to leave you alone instead of making self-righteous pronouncements that make me right by making you wrong. When you aren't poking at me, I find no fault with you. I repeat, no one appointed you to get in other people's business except yourself. Iconomy, say, is the first person I would want in that position. You are the last. For anyone.

FYI, the pic was a simple joke regarding you and jonson's ongoing dead-horse feud, and not aimed at your commentary on Pekar.

I didn't say it was, dh--but since everyone interpets my words and actions to suit themselves, why can't I interpet yours to suit me? I wrote someone when I was hotheaded and they complained that I mischaracterized what they said. They were right but all the same I proposed that it might be a two-way street, this misinterpetation and mischaracterization.

Have you considered your instant comment on the dead horse fight might possibly be throwing gasoline on a fire? If I have my back up, how am I supposed to be as generous and understanding as the average disinterested bystander?

Am I supposed to be omniscient and not merely assume but know you mean well when I've had someone else going at me? Me, I try to stay out of other people's fights if I can help it.

I'm trying to do the honorable thing. And your points, sans insults, are well taken. I said smug and superior. You escalated more than ten fold in insulting me back, may I point out? But you got mad at what I wrote--which I can understand, believe me. And consequently, I try to take no offense. Not because I am a great guy but because I am not. So few here apologize at all that I would like to not demand they apologize to suit my tastes. You did me no harm. I do listen.
posted by y2karl at 7:41 PM on August 22, 2003


Well-written and well-handled. And I especially feel what you are saying regarding interpreting others' actions to suit oneself--everyone does it, whether or not it's justifiable. Sorry for flipping out, Karl. I don't exactly have the longest fuse either.

(Hmm, as innuendos go, that wasn't the most flattering thing to say about myself. Anyhow..)

I can tell by reading your comments over the past year or so that you're actually someone I'd like to have a beer with and in fact probably have a bit in common with, and I know IRL we'd never (you, me, jonson, crunchland, hama7, et al) butt heads like this. It's silly. Hope you get the rental stuff worked out. If nothing else, maybe this thread was one of the necessary evils for helping to vent and sublimate frustrations.
posted by dhoyt at 8:57 AM on August 23, 2003


*cries*
posted by matteo at 11:05 AM on August 23, 2003


dhoyt - it's funny you mention the IRL, because honestly, on most topics y2karl & I are in large agreement. Politically I imagine we are aligned, his taste in music appears spectacularly interesting & his posts are almost always thoroughly researched & well worth the effort put into them. But his temper is very short, and both his ability to take offense & his inability to turn the other cheek by far outdoes anyone on the site, even XQ. And thus springs our constant headbutting. But like I said, I'm going to try and let it drop as he has done, it's clearly doing little more than irritating the bystanders.
posted by jonson at 2:57 PM on August 23, 2003


I'm glad I dropped by this thread one last time to see the train wreck magically transformed into a group hug. Hey, c'mon down to NYC, I'll buy you all a beer!

So, y2karl, seen the flick yet?
posted by languagehat at 4:49 PM on August 23, 2003


When I asked you in your little MetaTalk thread, in your cute signature style, Why do you hate rushmc so much, you went off the deep end trashing him, making your pre-operative transsexual comments, to which people objected vehemently. You started hounding rushmc when he had said nothing, done nothing to you. You kept at him for reasons I can not fathom, still do on your user page. Who are you to pass judgement on what I said to Faze here?

Our constant headbutting springs from the fact that you won't leave me alone. I leave you alone. Look at how many times you have gone after me in this one thread. Please, jonson, link to the time I trashed a MetaFilter thread of yours with critical comments. I ask you, when have I come into a thread of yours in the blue and dumped on you at extreme length over and over? When have I ever said anything about you in a thread of yours in the blue? Can you show us one link? Show the members our 'headbutting' is anything other than your personal vendetta.
posted by y2karl at 4:55 PM on August 23, 2003


And just to be perfectly clear, show us the MetaFilter thread.
posted by y2karl at 4:59 PM on August 23, 2003


Sorry for flipping out, Karl. I don't exactly have the longest fuse either.

As I said, dhoyt, I took no offense, as I all too well understand the process.

A person's character is fairly formed by the age of legal adulthood. Whatever form our emotional expression takes, it is enormously difficult to change, and that only with concentration and will. As the joke about how many therapist does it take to change a lightbulb goes, and only if the lightbulb really, really wants to change. Only a terribly naive person can say, Well, if you do X and such, why don't you just stop?

Ever try to quit smoking? That is nothing in comparison as to changing the way you feel and express your feelings. As with Harvey Pekar, I don't believe in this growth crap particularly. I have a temper, of this I am well aware. But I simmer down very fast and, contrary to my vendettist's propaganda, I really don't hold grudges. What I said above set you off. I understand that part.

Anger is an unpleasant emotion to feel. I don't wish to anger anyone else when I lose mine. I can not understand someone who consciously tries to make me lose my temper. I can not understand the mentality of someone who goes around trying to upset someone else's feelings for sport and pleasure.
posted by y2karl at 6:08 PM on August 23, 2003


What little I've read of Harvey Pekar now (an interview, a book review, a music review, some comic panels, some stuff about him here) there's something about him that reminds me very strongly of Harlan Ellison. Harlan's a big enough character that is is both high praise, and strong insult depending on one's own opinion of Ellison and his work (mine is pretty complicated so, from me, it's both). Anyway, I note that they are both from Cleveland Ohio and they both seem to have the same ... kind of ... um, ... certainty of opinion.
posted by wobh at 9:59 AM on August 24, 2003


But nobody gets to be a genuine crank (as opposed to a hip showoff) without being something of a closet idealist. The thing that strikes you most about Pekar -- as he comes across both in his comics and in the new movie about his life, also called "American Splendor" -- is how open he is to the people around him, how curious he is about how they think, feel and talk. No matter how eccentric or self-obsessed he seems to be, this isn't a man who's curled in on himself. The "American Splendor" comics are peopled with the folks Pekar has encountered in everyday life: His co-workers at the Cleveland Veteran's Administration hospital, where he worked for years as a clerk; wives, current and ex-, and girlfriends, real and imaginary; friends or acquaintances he runs into on the street. He captures the rhythms and nuances of their language in ways that prove he has truly listened to them. Maybe it's his lifelong jazz obsession that has tuned his ear to the curving tones and multilayered meanings of everyday speech. But however he came by them, there are few contemporary writers of any stripe who come off as gifted at truly hearing as Pekar does.

...The world of Harvey Pekar and of "American Splendor" is a weirdly hopeful one... Pekar has every right to complain, and, God willing, he'll continue to do so. Life has a way of pushing at you from all directions. Once you stop pushing back against it, then you know you're really a goner


To continue the prior conversation, that is from Stephanie Zacharek's review in Salon. Available here, ad watching required, yada yada. (Caution, it has spoilers. Well, it discusses several scenes, shall we say.) That's her assessment of Harvey Pekar's character and his comics. Oh, she likes the movie, too. I quite agree on the first two topics--his stories are filled with real people he very much likes, and some of the best are built around what people say to him at work. His affection for them is palpable. I've always seen him as underdog--never loser.

Here is another quote of Zacharek's--

The comics take off, or rather tunnel off: They're strictly an underground taste. But they do earn Pekar some loyal fans, and they also help him crack his perpetual loneliness -- they're instrumental in hooking him up with Brabner, who begins a mail correspondence with Pekar while she's working as a Delaware comic-book-store clerk (as well as teaching writing classes in prison).

for counterpoint to a mention of her in a quote above.

And, muckster, if you're still reading this, I have to eat my words,-- of course, it isn't all just a matter of taste. It's a matter of informed taste. (I'm looking for Virgil's Root Beer upon jonmc's recommendation, for this very reason)

I did read your review--no, I haven't seen the movie yet but will tonight--as to your opinion of Harvey Pekar, that is a matter of taste but I will see if I agree with your opinion on the acting and execution. That Salon spoiler of Zarachek's talked about a couple of scenes which I would like to discuss with you after I see the movie.

You do seem to be the iconoclast reviewer: your take on Masked and Anonymous is far more generous than most. I have yet to see that one, either--I'm not much of a movie goer--I'll see whether I agree with your assessment there, too.

But what's up with that Recent Acadamy Awarad? Can't About.com correct typos or is there something going on there I don't get?

That brings to mind, by the way, Dylan in Don't Look Back, where there's that scene with Albert Grossman trying to hand him some award from some group--which Dylan won't even look at or touch, and instead waves his hands in annoyance and tells Grossman to send it back. A far cry that from his Academy appearance where he was all I'd like to thank the Academy and blah blah cravenly delighted. Celebrities always seem to get so obsessed with getting accolades as they age... The young Dylan didn't need to have his ticket punched to know he was good or that people appreciated him. /tangential derail
posted by y2karl at 12:45 PM on August 25, 2003


Thanks for reading, y2k. You know, I can't really speak to the "real" Pekar, whoever that may be, so whatever I'm saying about him is based on the various Harveys in the film. But the inclusion of the real guy, Giamatti's character, and a couple of drawn versions didn't work for me--they seemed to be at cross-purposes rather than adding to each other. And although I'm interested now, I'll admit that I've never read the comic books. I leafed through an anthology at Forbidden Planet last week but there was too little Crumb in it to make it seem worth the twenty bucks. The other artists didn't immediately appeal to me. Maybe I'll give it another try.

As for the Dylan, the man can't really do much wrong as far as I'm concerned. That review is pretty torn, really. It's a shoddy movie, but I also enjoyed it thoroughly. As for the "Acadamy Awarad," well, uhm, let's just say it's a pun that's so incredibly clever I decided to get rid of it. Thanks for pointing it out....

I'm off to read Stephanie Zacharek's review now. Thanks for the link.
posted by muckster at 10:28 PM on August 25, 2003


I liked the movie alot. I had quibbles here and there--Giamatti had Pekar down but Davis's Brabner left me dissatisfied--but it caught Pekar and the world of his American Splendor. And I loved the backgrounds, interior and exterior. As with Crumb and Ghost World, I could watch this movie over and over just for the mise en scène: the restaurants, the streets, the apartment. And I loved the soundtrack, too. It worked as far as I'm concerned. But that's me.

So, I went to the Uptown, bought my ticket and wandered out to get a bite to eat. I saw that, down the street, Sorry Charlies Restaurant and Piano Bar, the last home style restaurant around and my favorite place to get breakfast--a P.I. writer described it so: a veritable five-star dive, a smoky hole-in-the-wall where the drinks are strong and the personalities stronger--ends its summer long swan song on September 2nd. There goes the last of its kind.

I walked in 20 minutes early and decided to go sit down in the wrong screening room--it's on two screens at the Uptown--where I sat, waiting for the movie to end. I sat there for about the whole 2O minutes before I got a clue and then rushed into the other halfway through the opening Halloween scene. Man, I could give a rat's ass about the previews but I hate missing a second of a movie I want to see. So I will see it again.

One thing that resonated with me was the age of things. Harvey waits in line at a grocery the likes of which you don't see in this town anymore, and his neighborhood is not the beautiful, green, pleasant city, with abundant parks and countryside within less than 20 minutes from downtown, grand and affordable housing, great suburban schools--it's what's left of where he's lived his whole life. When he goes to a bakery, I felt envy--we haven't had a bakery like that here for a decade, nor restaurants like those whose interiors were shown. I saw all that as a love letter to Pekar's decidedly not a Chamber of Commerce handout memory of his Cleveland.

As for patronizing, I suppose one could get that from the way Letterman (I liked Zarachek's what a smirking tool the pre-bypass Letterman used to be) introduced Pekar in his appearances on Late Night--man, it was fun seeing those again--or Pekar's ambivalence over the way MTV co-opted his friend Toby Radloff for a series of ads. Then again, it becomes plain that Pekar's friends and co-workers delighted in his comics and their appearances in them, seeing him on Letterman and, Radloff, who so identified with the mere concept of Revenge of The Nerds that he was going to drive to Toledo to see it, obviously loved his 15 minutes of fame. And as noted by Ms. Z, What comes across is how much Pekar likes the people around him, not in spite of their quirks but because of them.

I liked the comic framing in the introduction and throughout the movie--Meanwhile, in Delaware--and the fugue that follows his fainting spell in the Cancer Year part with the soliloquy about the other Harvey Pekars who appeared in the Cleveland phone book and the Plain Dealer obituaries over the years just blew me away with its transitions of Giamatti pacing in front of crosshatched panels and then that spectral frozen street. The scene or which Zarachek writes of--the camera pulls back from a scene between Giamatti and Friedlander, as Pekar and Radloff, to show us the parameters of the movie set, widening our view until we see the real Pekar and Radloff huddled over a tray of gourmet jellybeans at one of the craft-services tables. Their discussion of the beans' relative merits segues into a casual discussion of the various ways of dealing with loneliness. Giamatti and Friedlander have retreated to folding chairs in the background, but we see them watching and listening to the real-life people they've been playing--seemed a tad more contrived to me, but then I had read about it beforehand.

After I sat through the credits, I walked out under the neon--the world looked unfamiliar and strange, the way it did when I came out of movies when I was a kid. I haven't had that feeling for a long time.
posted by y2karl at 8:50 AM on August 26, 2003


Another thing I neglected to link--an actual Bob and Harv comic--Harvey Pekar talks to Sun Ra while Ridin' The Dog.
posted by y2karl at 12:44 PM on August 26, 2003


I had to add this: this is an excerpt from Joyce Brabner's blog entry for this Tuesday past about when she took her parents to see American Splendor. . From the dates she mentions as future, I get the impression that there has been a lag between writing and posting here.

My old schoolmate must have escaped, as I did. The theater manager was too young. The college friends who joined my family were too old. When did their hair thin or turn gray? And why, at the end of the film, were their eyes teared over? Of all people, they should have known how the story ends.

The thing that my pals have in common with Harvey is the way everyone’s life is turning out. One guy is a two-time survivor of cancer, like Harvey. Another left a hot rock band that draws large crowds even today because celebrity spooked him. He wanted to live a more ordinary life, have a family. I get the feeling there comes a time in men’s middle years when they have to weigh potential fulfilled and ambitions realized against how a life’s been lived. Not everything turned out the way we planned, at 21, but the guys, like Harvey, have worked hard, worked creatively and honorably and found families to love them.

My own family digs the movie more than I would have guessed. I expected wisecracks, complaints and criticism, especially since they’ve been peeking at www.americansplendormovie.com and commenting on “that awful wig and big glasses,” that Hope wears as Joyce. Mom’s forgotten that I really did have long, stringy hair and huge lenses, but she also thinks Hope was right on point when it came to recreating gesture, mood and inner tension. This I’ll be happy to tell Ms. Davis when we meet again, probably at the LA or New York preview.

Her mom thinks Hope Davis is on point. I am taking a friend to see it on Friday--I wonder how I'll look closer at her now. Of course, I am curious who the ex-rock star friend is---from a hot rock band that draws large crowds even today. Hmmm....

posted by y2karl at 3:11 PM on August 27, 2003


Hey, here's another Pekar-Crumb comic I just found: Crazy Ed.
posted by y2karl at 8:42 PM on September 10, 2003


And one more thing:

FWIW, they just started up aDraw a Harvey Pekar story ! contest at the American Splendor website, where the man himself will be supplying two scripts and storyboards each week. Now there's an avenue to fame and glory for the budding cartoonists here.

The first story is about the importance of instant gratification.
posted by y2karl at 8:10 AM on September 13, 2003


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