Thursday, October 29, 2009

Angouleme dreaming

When we went to France last year (like it's something we do often), the idea jumped into my head that I might come back and explore the world of la bande dessinee. Everybody knows the French and Belgians are nuts about graphic novels and everybody knows and has probably read some Tintin and Asterix.

But the whole French graphic novel thing jumped to the front of my mind when, coincidentally, Shaun Tan won the Angouleme International Comics Festival Prize for La Ou Vont Nos Peres. Although we probably know it best as The Arrival. So yay, Shaun.

Today I read the Angouleme Comics Festival is 'the largest and most significant comics festival in the world. (So says Bart Beaty in Unpopular Culture, transforming the European comic book in the 1990s). So you might say that to win such a award is the comic universe equivalent of the Booker Prize. Or Le Tour de France.

Anyway, I got thinking that I might like to go there to find out how the French do things and why it is that la bande dessinee maintains such a broad audience. Why is it that comic books are seemingly not viewed as the preserve of pimple squeezing dweebs, would-be manga cultists or indie hipsters? Hey, maybe the French really do look down the Gallic conk at comic book readers. But what the heck, the industry is large, diverse and ever-changing. Not without its problems I'm sure but big and complex.

At least I hope so. Because this week I learned the good people at the Copyright Agency Limited have provided me with a little money to travel to Angouleme in January 2011 to attend the festival. So yay, CAL. I would love to go this January, but the year's gap gives me time to plan and set up other activities. And save some euros. And keep learning the language.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

On the road

Last weekend I hopped over to Perth, my old hometown. And indeed to Collie, my late father's old hometown. Nowadays my uncle and cousin live in Collie, two hours south of Perth.

It was great to see Greg and Zoe again. Zoe I haven't seen since she about 13. She's now in her 20s and a theatre nurse. Seems she's not at all put off by the sight of strangers' innards. Zoe told me a very funny story about our grandfather, who arrived in Collie around the mid-1950s. Being a town built on, surprise, surprise - coal mining - Collie was a strong union town. And it seems my grandfather hated unions and wasted no time in letting his feelings be known.

No surprise then that his time in the south-west was not profitable. Indeed, it was something of a financial disaster. Though perhaps this had as much to do with his interest in the gee-gees and associated punting as with the politics of Karl Marx. And perhaps explains my father's politics, which were resolutely anti-Labor. I had always found this strange since he was hardly born to the manor (the stable more likely).

The main reason for going was to see some friends and family and to pick up my vinyl albums.I drove down with Jim, who I used to do a lot of radio programming with. So there's another bit of history, right there. We had a great time rolling past the green, sodden paddocks and through the small towns along the South West Highway. And avoiding the delights of Mandurah.

My uncle Greg had 40 kilos worth of vintage vinyl stored away. That equates to about 150 lps and the odd single. All up I reckon the trip cost around $1000, which works out at about $7 per disc. Wouldn't it have been easier to download them? Yes, I suppose. Sort of. Maybe. Not really. Can you download the first James single, Folklore? No, it seems not. Is worth $1,000? Umm.

Can you download Steve McQueen by Prefab Sprout? Of course. $16.99 and it's mine all over again. But there it was, the record that cost me my job when I told the boss I took a day off work to stay home and review it (with Peter Bonner). D'uh. Or Howlin' Wolf's double anthology for Chess. No, can't get that either.

Anyway, there are all sorts of things in there, some good, some so-so. Some, like Culture Club's 12 of Karma Chameleon with picture sleeve of course, puzzling to say to the least. A 2008 re-issue of The Smiths This Charming Man is currently asking US$10, so I'm in front right there.