Book Review

Ninety-nine More Maggots, Mites, and Munchers
by May R. Berenbaum
-Insects are written about in short 1-2 page entries. This is a sequel. I did not read the first book. This short form is fitting for writing about insects. The form of the entries consists of: many puns, perhaps to add some light-heartedness to descriptions of the insectoid horror-world; some discussion of how each species affects the lives of human beings; and of course Latin name, life cycle, diet, mating, unusual behaviors and memorable peculiarities, etc.. Insects are strange and beautiful and they often mess up things for human beings by biting them or messing with their crops. I enjoyed reading this book. First I read it as something to help me fall asleep but then as pure pleasure and distraction for a troubled mind.


Book Review

Science, Order, and Creativity
by David Bohm and F. David Peat

I bought this book at a sale because I thought the cover was so...unusual. Plus the title and the whole package was my kind of thing. There's stuff about fractals and Heisenberg and there's a chapter named "What is Order?" 

I didn't plan on reading it, but then one night I gave it a shot, and I saw that these guys really knew what they were talking about. They take us from physics to metaphysics, to meta-, and then on to the mystical and the cosmic and the everyday mind. By the end they're discussing Krishnamurti.

I like their idea of "false play" / "playing false:" This is when a person "is engaged in an activity that no longer has meaning in itself, merely in order to experience a pleasant and satisfying state of consciousness" but is now concerned with "reward or the avoidance of punishment." This not only screws with the "generative order of consciousness" but generates violence: the denial of the freedom of creative states of mind "brings about a pervasive state of dissatisfaction and boredom. This leads to intense frustration..." and deadened senses, intellect, and emotions, and the loss of a capacity for "free movement of awareness, attention, and thought." (I've been thinking back and forth about signing up with Patreon all week...)

A lot of thought went into this book. Reading it gave me a nice feeling of texture and struggle. It felt like good exercise for the mind AND the heart. Over-earnestness, a vision of the beyond, struggling with language — I can sympathize. 

As usual as I was reading I couldn't help but think more diagrammatic thinking would have helped, and not just thinking—more actual diagrams would have helped. I guess that's what the cover artist Andresj Dudzenski was trying to get at with the flower, cubes, etc. But the cover artist and the writers are using different metaphor-schemes, as far as I can tell. I don't remember any of those sorts of things (such as shaped holes and pegs, flowers or magnifying glasses) appearing inside the text.) Relatively speaking there are actually quite a few illustrations—fractals and geometric figures, and even the Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by Rembrandt and some JW Turner. 

But how about a sense of humor, an ironic sense? This book is pretty dry. Here's a sample of the writing: "Thus, if there are rigid ideas and assumptions in the tacit infrastructure of consciousness, the net result is not only a restriction on creativity, which operates close to the "source" of the generative order, but also a positive presence of energy that is directed toward general destructiveness." It's true, but it's not exactly powerfully written. In the end, though, it's hard for me to hold this against a book so dedicated to making clear this vision of reality which makes humor and compassion possible at all, by "operating close to the source of the generative order" in a spirit of openness and creativity.

Near the end:
Consider, for example, a hypothetical individual whose consciousness had been "cleared up" both in the individual and the cosmic dimensions. Although this person might be a model of wisdom and compassion, his or her value in the general context would be limited. For because of "unconscious" rigidity in the general infrastructure, the rest of humanity could not properly listen to this person and he or she would either be rejected or worshiped as godlike. In either case there would be no true dialogue at the social level and very little effect on the vast majority of humanity. What would be needed in such a case would be for all concerned to set aside assumptions of godlike perfection, which makes genuine dialogue impossible. In any case, the truly wise individual is one who understands that there may be something important to be learned from any other human being. Such an attitude would make true dialogue possible, in which all participants are in the creative "middle ground" between the extremes of "perfection" and "imperfection." In this ground, a fundamental transformation could take place which goes beyond either of the limited extremes and includes the sociocultural dimension.



Years ago I was very fortunate to follow along with some friends who were visiting Moriarty's studio/apt. in NYC. Seeing his work and how he lived in his studio and hearing him talk about it was extraordinary. He also has an incredible collection of jazz records, colorful shirts, and colorful Chuck Taylors. It wasn't until I saw heard him talk about his work, much of it hanging right there on the brick wall, some of it freshly worked over, that I really saw what he was doing in these paintings (these were some of the paintings that were in the big Kramers). 

He was painting memories from his own life, but changing them—painting his older self in place of his younger self, or changing himself into a girl instead of a boy, etc. Through this process, and through living every day in the same space with these large paintings, he wasn't just working on the paintings but also working on his own mind, his own life, drawing out and calling upon powerful forces—memories, especially of painful childhood moments, or of his parents who had passed on, and pivotal moments in his own life—and then sitting with them, living with them, the ghosts and echoes of them. 

I was already an "artist," I guess, by this point in my life, and I was playing around with comics a bit, but I'm a slow learner. It wasn't until this moment that I really in my bones understood that making art can be a technology for actually magically affecting reality, working with your life, through the transformation of memories and suffering and whatever else needs new life, into new symbolic forms, into meaningful objects, that we can sit with and look at and live with. 

There's that line from a Robert Penn Warren poem that David Milch is always quoting:         
is the process whereby pain of the past in its pastness
May be converted into the present tense

Of joy.

Check out Jerry Moriarty's tumblr (link) and UPDATE: (YouTube channel).


Gift Ideas

No exchanges allowed. – Human beings are forgetting how to give gifts. Violations of the exchange-principle have something mad and unbelievable about them; here and there even children size up the gift-giver mistrustfully, as if the gift were only a trick, to sell them a brush or soap. Instead, one doles out charity, administered well-being, which papers over the visible wounds of society in coordinated fashion. In its organized bustle, the human impulse no longer has any room, indeed even donations to the needy are necessarily connected with the humiliation of delivery, the correct measure, in short through the treatment of the recipient as an object. Even private gift-giving has degenerated into a social function, which one carries out with a reluctant will, with tight control over the pocketbook, a skeptical evaluation of the other and with the most minimal effort. Real gift-giving meant happiness in imagining the happiness of the receiver. It meant choosing, spending time, going out of one’s way, thinking of the other as a subject: the opposite of forgetfulness. Hardly anyone is still capable of this. In the best of cases, they give what they themselves would have liked themselves, only a few degrees worse. The decline of gift-giving is mirrored in the embarrassing invention of gift-articles, which are based on the fact that one no longer knows what one should give, because one no longer really wants to. These goods are as relationless as their purchasers. They were shelf-warming junk from the first day. Likewise with the right to exchange the gift, which signifies to the receiver: here’s your stuff, do what you want with it, if you don’t like it, I don’t care, get something else if you want. In contrast to the embarrassment of real gifts, their pure fungibility still represents something which is more humane, because they at least permit the receiver to give themselves something, which is to be sure simultaneously in absolute contradiction to the gift.
In relation of the greater abundance of goods, which are available even to the poor, the decline of gift-giving may appear unimportant, and reflections on it as sentimental. However, even if it became superfluous in a condition of superfluity – and this is a lie, privately as well as socially, for there is no-one today whose imagination could not find exactly what would make them thoroughly happy – those who no longer gave would still be in need of gift-giving. In them wither away those irreplaceable capacities which cannot bloom in the isolated cell of pure interiority, but only in contact with the warmth of things. Coldness envelops everything which they do, the friendly word which remains unspoken, the consideration which remains unpracticed. Such iciness recoils back on those from which it spread. All relations which are not distorted, indeed perhaps what is reconciliatory in organic life itself, is a gift. Those who become incapable of this through the logic of consequence make themselves into things and freeze.
- Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (21)


Movie Ideas

Major League infielder turns out to be a serial killer who has built a (baseball themed?) dungeon below the basement of his house (or the stadium?) where he tortures and kills his victims - "The Second Basement."

Sequel: "The Third Basement."

I had a dream the other night that there was a Glenn Ganges movie in the works, and I was originally slated to play Glenn, but I was pushing for Colin Hanks. The plot of the movie was based on an original script: One day Glenn is surprised to discover a door he had never noticed before in the basement of his house, which leads to another basement below, and another, etc.


News and Meta Stuff (November 2014)

Hello, this is cartoonist Kevin Huizenga, here to update you with the latest on my career in comics here in the early 21st Century using my "blog."

I'm assuming people still look at this, either following links (why?) from others' more active blogs or using an RSS feed reader (what's that again?) (oh hey, look, I had forgotten about this guy. what's he up to?). Well, I'm glad you asked.

I'm still working on Ganges: The River at Night, which I'm working very hard on, but I've also been happily interrupted with a few other projects this year, which, given our mutual goodwill and your patience with me so far, I'll assume you might like to hear a something about:

I drew a comic with Conrad Bakker (a brilliant artist and former art professor of mine) for an exhibition catalogue at the Krannert Museum in Urbana-Champaign (link). I had a great time working on it. I'll update when I know more.
(insert images)

It's the 100th anniversary of WW1. (Maybe I'll round out the year by uploading more of Frank King's WW1 era political cartoons? There's still time.) I adapted a poem by a "trench poet" for an anthology published by First Second. I was email interviewed about it, and my answers can be seen here, interwoven with the answers of James Lloyd and Hannah Berry.

• also I will have a few stories in the upcoming Drawn and Quarterly 25th Anniversary Anthology. I should be working on that right now, instead of typing this post.
• My new "main" comic will be called Ganges: The River at Night. It will be out in the spring.


Saul Steinblogging

I've started keeping a notebook to warm-up and get inspired where I jot notes and sketches about the work of Saul Steinberg and what I get out of his work. I'll be posting some of this material in the coming weeks (months? years?) over at my other blog, New Construction, where I write sporadically about making comics. Here's a link to all the posts so far.


Walt and Skeezix in: The Hall of Mirrors of Nature

-Frank King

"...so we see the search that characterizes the deluded mind is for a profound “answer.” The simple answer is that the simple and the profound are the same thing, that flatness and roundness and identity and non-identity coexist in a larger dimension of emptiness. Simple obvious everyday mind, thoughts, and things are in fact “profound” and a path to liberation in the sense that they make up part of a wide and deep co-ordinated co-dependent symbol space which is always dialectically in motion. And this dialectic movement proceeds, via the mirroring of emptiness itself-as-itself-mirroring to itself in itself-as-mirror, and we now comprehend this as a hall of mirrors in infinite "space." The stepping to the side and seeing the line between one image and the mirror and an infinite "meta-space" of meaning and non-meaning, this is how mirroring is itself seen. From this angle we see the frame mirroring itself. This movement is not our movement but is in fact stillness, is seeing that the mirror itself moves."
-Jean-Luc Heilegra, from a footnote about this Gasoline Alley Sunday strip in Method and Being


Pretty Good Review

"But it is in his poems that Dr. S_____ most vividly expresses the vitality of his realization of the Universal Life. The remarkable scope of his vision, the fertile yield of past centuries to his condensingly-interpretative thought, and the mighty swing of his fragrant censer of realization of essence combine to produce a picture in which all the past and the present display their dominant notes and colours in a harmony so glorious as to open forth to us a dazzling glimpse of the onward coming future. The superb melody of the ages as sung on earth by the characteristic events of the evolutionary progress of humanity follows a rhythm which, once perceived, is entrancing and illuminating beyond compare; and it is much of this that Dr. S_____ has put into the most prominent of his poems. He grasps and holds universal things before us for interpretation as they may be seen when partially expressed in transient periods, movements and thoughts of human beings on our earth; and through it all rings prophetically the clarion cry of man's inevitable and glorious destiny." (1902) (link)


For Sale - Original Art at San Diego Comic Con



Any questions please contact the Beguiling (mail@beguiling.com).
See here for a press release and what other artists' work will be available.

And, as always, many of my pages are available at the Beguiling website.

Don't get overwhelmed! Just get something!



For Sale

Three of my favorite cartoonists seem to be trying hard to make some money right now, with art sales and new online shops. Check them out.

Gabrielle Bell

Matthew Thurber

Dane Martin


Conversation Gardening

Speaking of Anders Nilsen, he has this new project called "Conversation Gardening." Like many he got mad about Amazon's recent shenanigans but he made his indignation manifest in a project and a path toward a better place. Read about it at the links below. Briefly the deal is, if you buy one of his books at an independent bookseller and send him the receipt and a piece of blank paper he'll send you back a drawing of anything, your choice. I'd be happy to participate in this too, for whatever that's worth. [send receipts and requests to PO Box 38061, St. Louis, MO 63138]. I'm sure there will be more authors and artists who would like to do this as well. (It seems to me like what would be ideal is if booksellers could use some kind of display or sign near participating authors' books.) 

I should also mention that Anders has a new self-published comic book called God and the Devil at War in the Garden that everyone will want to get. If you're lucky you might get a copy that was actually expertly stapled by me personally! But you'll never know.


getting closer

As I work I have to be careful how much I zoom in. I can get lost in details that won't even appear on the printed page. Getting lost is bad, but the ability to zoom in and out is part of the point of what I'm putting on the page in the first place. Zooming in and out through space that isn't even there.

Every day I'm getting a little closer to being done with Ganges #5, but there's still a lot of space between here and there. Space that is really there.

As I'm posting this, I can see at least one "mistake" in the images above that I should go in and fix.



This blog used to be called "The Balloonist." Now it's going to be called "F." I hope that doesn't mess anybody up.

I still have a lot of pictures of balloons and ballooning that I meant to post here over the years. If I get desperate for content as I try in the coming months to keep to a schedule of posting (at least) once a week, those images will almost certainly start showing up. So fans of balloons, ballooning, lame puns, and regularity should still have plenty to look forward to.

Comments will always be open now, even though nobody comments on blogs anymore except spammers.

Lastly, a reminder that my tumblr is over here and if you care enough to read this you might want to follow that too.

* * *

Here's two mountains, or two views of the same mountain, or the same mountain at two different moments—it’s all the same, from Ganges 5. Will these mountains still be standing when I finally finish this comic book, millions of years from now? Or will frost and rain have eroded and dismantled them by then and carried them,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,to the sea???


Note to self

woke from a dream and typed this into my phone in the middle of the night:

Pizza in a pizza. 2 dogs always scamming good talking give different names every time dumb stoner names I am ape. Designer breeds but weird unrecognized 


Crazy Original Art Sale at TCAF

Unless I change my mind, I'm bringing these folders of original art
to TCAF this weekend, priced to move.

I'll also be bringing a lot of pages to the Beguiling and they should be up on the website after that. 


Incomplete Nature by Terrence W. Deacon

(Cross posted from my bookblog.)

(I read this book while at the same time reading Dynamics in Action by Alicia Juarrero. I finished Deacon's book first. I decided to read them together, because Juarrero has formally accused Deacon of plagiarism. You can read about that here and here. Read the comments on the latter for more. Anyways I'm trying to get my head around the ideas first.)

Daniel Dennett's review from last December is a good place to start. There are many other reviews of this book around the web, so I won't struggle too much with trying to summarize the ideas. I got a big kick out of reading Deacon's other book, Symbolic Species (link to my write up). That book was about the dialectical co-evolution of language and the brain, and this newer book (2011) is in a way about the co-evolution of self-organizing forms. Both of these books seemed very "dialectical" to me, but I honestly still don't know if I'm using that word correctly or if I'm only using it in my own private way. Anyhow the idea is that as simple material forms work through their thermodynamic changes they can come together in mutually supportive ways to create new meta-forms (like what happens with crystals or whirlpools), which can then combine to form more complex forms-of-forms-of-forms which can be said in a extremely primitive way to look after themselves, to work to persist in their current arrangement of forms, and to reproduce and evolve. Deacon calls this primitive life-form an "autogen." (Juarrero sometimes uses the phrase "structured structuring structures" which I guess she got from Antonio Damasio.) It only really exists in theory, but his point is that it's not a totally crazy idea that something like that could have come together billions of years ago on Earth. It doesn't violate the laws of physics.

I associate this kind of "leveling-up" or differentiation with dialectics. In Symbolic Species the 3-part dialectic you needed to get your head around was Charles Peirce's icon > index > symbol. In this book, there's another nested 3-part structure: thermodynamic > morphodynamic > teleodynamic. (Peirce again makes a few cameos here.) The complex lifeforms we know and love evolved after billions of years of teleodynamic activity. There are also difficult chapters that discuss the concepts of information and work in terms of this dialectic.

Deacon discusses how in theory this dialectical geometric logic could unfold in simple material systems, and then towards the end discusses how this logic can apply to what we know about brains and consciousness. The sections on brains were of course what I was interested in. They felt intuitively right to me, for what it's worth, and the parallels with Buddhist ideas were obvious and exciting to see.

He argues against the idea that consciousness and life are to be understood in merely linear terms, such as mechanism/function, or information/computation. Instead we should pay attention to how life emerges from forms of thermodynamic and morphodynamic energy flows which use geometrical arrangements to pit physical processes against each other in order to perpetuate far-from-equilibrium structures. Thus new formal arrangements become new efficient causes. The parts affect the whole, the whole affects the parts. As new arrangements of forms persist, new possibilities arise for new systems and relationships between forms to emerge, and as these affect the ability of the sub-forms to survive and reproduce the new meta-arrangements persist insofar as the sub-forms which support them are selected to perpetuate them. Wholes support parts which support wholes. In this way forms "level-up" into new meta-forms (these are my words for thinking about it). Once these forms (which at this point are no longer merely material, but are self-perpetuating forms-of-forms, and so exist as it were in the spaces between matter, and are "absential" (to use one of Deacon's many neologisms)) found ways to use the patterns of DNA and RNA molecules to integrate different areas of themselves they got really good at generating different architectures for staying alive and reproducing. At this level the material form of the organism is in a sense beside the point—the point is the whole dynamic arrangement of self-perpetuating form (which is parasitic on matter but also paradoxically independent in the sense that it is a dynamic matter/form combo, "more than the sum of its parts" at any one moment, emergent and absential).

A lot of this is standard evolution stuff, but what I guess Deacon is saying is that the important thing is to follow the formal logic of nested spiraling yin/yangs of presences and absences all the way down to the basic level of thermodynamics and back up again in order to see how life and consciousness are best understood in terms of a dialectic of dynamic processes. The higher levels at which information and function and consciousness seem paradoxical only make sense if you take into account the whole multi-dimensional dialectic of presence and absence.

So did Aristotle nail it? All four causes are accounted for and back in action. There's a lot of discussion of Aristotle in this book and Dynamics in Action, which I look forward to finishing. Greek science's turn toward the timeless and mathematical and away from the contextually embedded narrative description is a big issue in that book. What about Lao Tse? "Clay is fashioned into vessels but it is on their empty hollowness that their use depends.” (Deacon quotes this too.) Deacon also discusses the "discovery" of zero as analogous to what he is trying to say about absential "things." (More often he uses the word "ententional" to refer to these absent forms that make a difference. I don't think that word is going to catch on.)

I haven't mentioned how difficult to read this book is yet. It's not super bad, but it's pretty difficult. He coins a lot of new words, which normally I'm fine with, and even wish more writers would do, but other reviewers have felt it was a bit much. You need to have a pretty basic understanding of physics and biology. I'm no master wordsmith but I couldn't help but feel at times like he could have explained things more clearly and that he was making it more difficult than was necessary. I'd love to take a crack at diagramming or drawing comics about the ideas in this book and Juarrero's book. Deacon throws in a few diagrams, but it seems to me like visualization would really help. Saying "figure/background reversal" over and over doesn't quite drive the point home without an illustration, like one of these.



Mirrors of Nature

Here's some diagrams I drew while reading Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature by Richard Rorty last year. I don't expect these diagrams will necessarily make much sense to anyone since I'm using my own, like, private language, which is still under construction. Nor will they clear up anything about the book, which is anyways already pretty clear, I think. In other words, I didn't draw them to illustrate the book. (Though I would like to do more comics or diagrams to clearly illustrate philosophy or nonfiction books someday. If you're looking to put out an edition of Mirror of Nature with illustrations by Kevin H, please give me a call!) But these fall more in the category of "inspired by" or notes to myself. All the stuff about dialectics are my own ideas and I'm not even sure I know what I'm talking about yet. Ideally I would type out some paragraphs trying to explain what you're looking at, but I think I'll just put them up as is for now.