Virtual Memories Show 409:
Rian Hughes

“In graphic design, if you define the problem clearly, the solution is almost immediately apparent. And if you can’t find a solution, it’s likely because you haven’t defined the problem well.”

With his amazing new book XX (Overlook Press), Rian Hughes gets to add “novelist” to his titles of graphic designer, typographer, illustrator, comics writer & artist, and photographer. We get into how he wrote a science fiction narrative using graphic design as a tool & mode of storytelling (& why more writers should consider graphic design as a part of their work), how technology had to catch up to his vision of the novel, his stab at going a step beyond Arthur C. Clarke, and why he’s so interested in semiotics and how ideas get into our heads. We talk about his childhood entré into type and graphic design, the boredom of illustration and marketing, the ways design involves defining problems and solutions and how that does and doesn’t apply to fiction, and his affection for science fiction pulps. We also discuss whether he can turn off his design eye, the new frontiers in technology and the plasticity of the digital realm, the perils of cultural conflict, how we grow into certain artists & genres, and why everything for him comes down to colors, shapes, actions and language and what they mean. Give it a listen! And go read XX!

“What I’ve learned it, don’t expect too much prior knowledge on the part of your reader or viewer, and give them as many opportunities to get on board as you can, before you take them off to the Wild Blue Yonder at the end.”

“The plasticity of the digital realm means that the only texture it has is the one that we decide to apply to it. The only sound that it has, the only shape or form that it has are the ones we decide it should have.”

“You need to step outside the form to see what the form is. Then you can very quickly understand that a lot of things that people take gospel aren’t at all, and you can mess with them.”

“If I was ruler of the world, the first rule I’d institute is that every shop on every high street would employ a graphic designer for their signs. The world should look more beautiful!”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Rian Hughes is a graphic designer, illustrator, comic artist and typographer who has worked extensively for the British and American advertising, music and comic book industries. He has written and drawn comics for 2000 AD and Batman Black And White, and designed logos for the Avengers, the X-Men, Superman, record label Hedkandi, MTV, and James Bond. He has edited books on mid-century lifestyle illustration and custom typography, and written on semiotics, culture, and collecting vintage science fiction pulps & paperbacks.

Follow Rian on Twitter and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Bio photo of Rian by Robin Farquhar-Thomson. No idea who shot the doorway one. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 408:
Celia Paul

“I’ve got rid of paintings I was very pleased with but which I knew needed to go deeper. It’s an extremely painful process; I’ve been kept awake at night, driving myself insane with remembering what I’ve lost. Images that I’ve painted over remorselessly come back to haunt me.”

With her wonderful new memoir, SELF-PORTRAIT (NYRB), celebrated life-painter Celia Paul explores her life as an artist, the evolution of her portraiture, her need for a Virginia Woolf-ian Room of One’s Own, and her 10-year relationship with Lucian Freud (c.1978-88). We get into the influence she and Freud had on each other’s work, how she took control of her life and her art, the moral component of life-painting, the importance of being selfish, the conflict for women artists between being loved and following your own path, her affinity for the artist Gwen John, her antipathy toward the word “muse,” and how much she flat-out hates being called an artist “in her own right”. We talk about the influence of Collette & Duras on her writing, her decision to incorporate her journals in the memoir and the continuity of self they reveal, why she only paints portraits of people she knows well (and why her paintings of her sister Kate as self-portraits), the uses of stillness, how she re-evaluated her life after Lucian Freud’s death in 2011, why letters are like painting, and much more. Give it a listen! And go read SELF-PORTRAIT!

“I think I was deflected from my purpose by being influenced by Lucian Freud in one crucial aspect: he was very interested in the balances of power between people, between lovers particularly.”

“I think my sister Kate & I know each other so well we hardly need to speak. A lot of the portraits I’ve done of Kate here self-portraits by proxy. She expresses what I feel. There’s nobody else in the world I’ve felt that uncanny connection to.”

“It’s so difficult to be ambitious about your own work and also be desirable. There’s a conflict between being loved and following your own path.”

“One of the saddest things about death is losing the particularity of the person: the way the mouth covers over the teeth, the way they talk, and all that. And how can heaven or some kind of Christian notion of the afterlife compare to that kind of intimate knowledge of an individual?”

“The thing about art is there always has to be a certain distance, or it doesn’t have authenticity.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Celia Paul was born in 1959 and studied at the Slade School of Fine Art. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is in the collections of the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery (London), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her major solo exhibitions include Celia Paul, curated by Hilton Als, at the Yale Center for British Art (2018) and the Huntington Art Museum, San Marino, California (2019); and Desdemona for Celia by Hilton at Gallery Met, New York (2015–16). Her work was included in the group exhibition All Too Human at Tate Britain (2018). She lives and works in London. Her new book is SELF-PORTRAIT.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Celia Paul at her studio in London by Alice Mann/Institute, for The New York Times. Photo of Painter and Model, 2012, by Celia Paul, © Celia Paul, courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London / Venice. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 406:
David Shields

“So much of American history has been a fairy-tale children’s history, and so much of Trump’s dealing with COVID was a Norman Vincent Peale ‘think positively and it’ll all go away.’ So much of the connection is an absence of reality hunger, not to name-check my own work.”

In 2018, essayist David Shields wrote Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention (Thought Catalog). For Election Day 2020, we decided to revisit that book, how he would write it differently now, and why Trump is the Bizarro World’s Personal Essayist #1. I prompt David with the adventitious sight of a car that bore the message, “Compassion Is Another Word For Control,” and we go off to the conversational races, talking politics, the superior messaging tactics of the right-wing, concerns about far-left cultural policies, faith in radical skeptical intelligence, the absence of reality hunger vis-a-vis the history of America, why rage isn’t a primary emotion but rather a cover for fear and pain, the lessons of Howard Stern, and why “An Intervention” is not for Trump but for the American people. Give it a listen! And go read David’s books!

“I’m really interested in strength, weakness, confessionality, brokenness, and woundedness, and obviously Trump and I approach those in very different ways.”

“The conversation is not getting this guy right. In terms of the left media coverage, it’s wrong in the sense that it’s just the taxi-meter running on their moral indignation, covering Trump 90% to Biden’s 10%.”

“It’s like Antonio Porchia said: ‘Man is weak and when he makes strength his profession, he makes himself weaker.'”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

David Shields is the internationally bestselling author of twenty-two books, including Reality Hunger (recently named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade by LitHub), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), Black Planet (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Other People: Takes & Mistakes (NYTBR Editors’ Choice). Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention was published in 2018; The Trouble With Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power appeared in 2019. James Franco’s film adaptation of I Think You’re Totally Wrong: A Quarrel, which Shields co-wrote and co-stars in, was released in 2017 (available now on Amazon Prime, iTunes/Apple TV, Vudu, Vimeo, Kanopy, and Google Play). Shields wrote, produced, and directed Marshawn Lynch: A History, a 2019 documentary about Marshawn Lynch’s use of silence, echo, and mimicry as key tools of resistance (rave reviews in the New Yorker, Nation, and dozens of other publications; film festival awards all over the world; available now on Sundance TV/AMC, Amazon Prime, iTunes/Apple TV, Google Play, etc.). A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships and a senior contributing editor of Conjunctions, Shields has published fiction and nonfiction in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Esquire, Yale Review, Salon, Slate, Tin House, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Believer, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Best American Essays. His work has been translated into two dozen languages.

Follow David on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of David by someone else. Photo of us from 2019 by me. They’re on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 405:
Jeff Trexler

“When you think about what law has meant to comics, it isn’t just about censorship. A lot of it is about access, about personal freedom. People want to be able to express themselves, and they want their work to be out there for other people to read.”

Lawyer, ethics advisor and comics nerd Jeff Trexler joins the show to talk about his new role as Interim Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. We get into his plans to help rebuild the CBLDF’s reputation and ethics code after the sexual harassment scandal of its previous director, his experiences helping people pursue their harassment claims and launching antiharassment campaigns in the fashion world, how the Fund’s role has changed over the decades, and why he’s comfortable with that interim title. We also get into his obsessions with comics and design, the broad meaning of First Amendment law (and why R Sikoryak‘s recent Constitution Illustrated should be required reading), how to learn from ethics disasters, how nonprofits can grow and how they can become sclerotic, his childhood McLuhan-inspired interpretation of the theme to the Batman TV show, how our mutual friend Tom Spurgeon was the hub of the comics industry, and what it’s been like to live without him. Give it a listen!

“One of the things that’s impressed me about the comics community is that they take law seriously.”

“People don’t trust the law when they feel the legal system is detached from them.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Jeff Trexler is a long-time member of the comics community as well as an attorney and ethics advisor. He currently serves as CBLDF’s Interim Executive Director, bringing expertise that developed through his work advising nonprofit organizations, media companies, and fashion brands.

Prior to joining CBLDF, Jeff served as Associate Director of the Fashion Law Institute, where his work on ethics issues included advising government officials on sexual harassment legal reform. He is a member of the Ethics Committee at Kering Americas and also served on the board of the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art.

In addition to creating the Fashion Ethics course at Fordham Law School, Jeff has taught at Yale, SMU, Pace University, and Saint Louis University. He has also been part of dozens of panels at comic-cons and continuing legal education programs. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in American Religious History from Duke University, and he is admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and New York bars.

Jeff’s favorite comic book sequence is from the last issue of Grant Morrison’s run of The Doom Patrol: “There is another world. There is a better world. Well . . . there must be.”

You can find Jeff’s writing on comics and the law at The Beat, TCJ.com, and, via the Wayback Machine, Blog@Newsarama.

Follow Jeff on Twitter.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Jeff by someone else. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 404:
Michael Shaw

“The Elements of Stress is the perfect gift for the person who HAD everything.”

Got the election / pandemic / climate change / midlife / inexplicable rash blues? Then listen to me and cartoonist & humorist Michael Shaw talk about his new book, The Elements of Stress and the Pursuit of Happy-ish in this Current Sh*tstorm (co-authored by the great Bob Eckstein, from Weekly Humorist Press)! We get into how Michael and Bob managed to mash up Strunk & White with Thurber & White to create a prose & cartoons handbook to dealing with This Whole Situation, then explore Michael’s history in cartooning and humor, how he balances that with a day job in writing and editing, his discovery that if he drew cartoons any better he’d be terrible, and why he took a hiatus from submitting gags to The New Yorker (and whether they know he’s taken said hiatus). We also get into his literary loves, the perils of listening to William S. Burroughs audiobooks on late-night commutes, how his florid-rococo style balances with Eckstein’s Hemingway-on-valium approach, the lesson he learned from Milton Glaser about One Element of Dissonance, and more! Give it a listen! And go read The Elements of Stress and the Pursuit of Happy-ish in this Current Sh*tstorm!

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

Lots of ways to follow The Virtual Memories Show! iTunes, Spotify, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TuneIn, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Michael Shaw’s cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker since 1999 and have a habit of going viral—appearing on an ABC news special following the World Trade Tower attack and on 60 Minutes as one of New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff’s “top five favorites.” Shaw’s cartoon on Charlie Hebdo led to his appearance on Ronan Farrow Daily on MSNBC. His cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker Book of Literary Cartoons, The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker, The Rejection Collection I and II, The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons, The Ultimate Cartoon Book series, and in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Harvard Business Review, Weekly Humorist, and Prospect magazine. His new book, with co-author Bob Eckstein, is The Elements of Stress and the Pursuit of Happy-ish in this Current Sh*tstorm.

Follow Michael on Twitter and Instagram and visit the Chinese sports gambling site that took over his website after he let the domain name lapse.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Michael by . . . someone else. It’s on my instagram.