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 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 402:
Darryl Pinckney

“The vote has to be rethought in our American hearts as a radical act, because so many people don’t want you to vote. We have to think about the vote as the center of American culture and American purpose, that cuts across lines of identity that people have drawn so vividly.”

Writer and cultural critic Darryl Pinckney joins the show to celebrate the new edition of Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy (NYRB) and the paperback of Busted in New York and Other Essays (Picador). We talk about revisiting his Obama-era writings in the post-2016 world, the importance of the vote and the question of whether there’s a Black vote, or Black voters. We discuss his surprise at the persistence of makeup of the BLM protests, his place in the historical chain and the moment he felt out of touch, and his history at the New York Review of Books and its roots in the anti-Vietnam War movement. We also get into the fractured relationship between Jews and Blacks (following their close ties during the civil rights movement), the companionship of books during the pandemic, the commodification of the arts, the memoir he’s working on about Elizabeth Hardwick and 1970s NYC, and more, including an image I’ve pondered for years: Jesse Jackson’s tears the night of Obama’s election in 2008. Give it a listen! And go read Blackballed and Busted in New York!

“Our generation didn’t think we were getting older the way we saw the previous generation get older. People made the mistake of thinking their children were their friends. They’re not; they’re your judges.”

“The past is so case by case, there’s no one rule for confronting it. Because there’s no end to what you can find out.”

“We have a lot of books, most of which I’ve not read. Now that I’m aware time is running out, I’m more enchanted by the book as an object than ever. The companionship of a book at a time like this means a lot to me.”

“None of this was ever certain. That things worked out the way they did is the surprise.”

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

Darryl Pinckney, a longtime contributor to The New York Review of Books, is the author of the novel High Cotton (winner of a Los Angeles Times Book Prize), and the works of nonfiction, Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy, Out There: Mavericks of Black Literature, and Busted in New York and Other Essays. He is a recipient of the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award for Distinguished Prose from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in New York.

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. Banner photo of Darryl by Dominique Pinckney; office photo by by Rich Gilligan. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 400:
Michael Musto

“I learned you have to only interview people you love, really do your research so you’re not asking them obvious questions, and treat it like a conversation, so you can get something human out of them, something spontaneous.”

Legendary entertainment columnist Michael Musto joins the show to talk about the evolution of gossip, nightlife, New York City, celebrity, and queer representation over the years! We get into the origins of his La Dolce Musto column in The Village Voice (and what led to the magazine’s decline and death), the parallels and differences between the AIDS crisis and COVID-19, the highs and lows of ’80s NYC and how the city will bounce back post-pandemic, the impact of RuPaul on the culture, his Warhol story, the generational gaps in gay upbringing, the bridges he’s burned, the reason he never had the nerve to talk to Madonna face to face, the best gift-bag he ever received, how his folks came around about his being gay but were always worried about his being a journalist, why he only reads celebrity memoirs, and more. It’s a heck of a way to celebrate our 400th episode! Give it a listen!

“In the COVID era, celebrities have become extra-irrelevant, because they can’t do what they do: make films or do live performances.”

“I felt not only survivor’s guilt, but the need to live for everyone who couldn’t live.”

“I’d wave at a celebrity I was quote-friends-unquote with, but who I’d written something maybe not positive about, and they’d always give me the side-eye. I learned the valuable lesson: keep on writing the truth, because who cares if you’re friends with celebrities? My job wasn’t to be their friend.”

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

When I asked Michael for a bio, he wrote, “I wrote the La Dolce Musto column for The Village Voice, I have written four books, including Downtown and Manhattan on the Rocks, and I have long also been a TV commentator on pop culture topics.”

Follow Michael on Twitter and you’ll find so much great stuff, including these recent pieces on COVID’s effect on queer culture, and being a misfit gay.

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 in red by Andrew Werner; in brocade by someone else. It’s on my instagram.

Virtual Memories Show 397:
Daniel Mendelsohn

“Each of my four books is secretly exploring a genre: lyric, epic, novel, and I’m not even sure what this one is, but I wrote it entirely to please myself.”

With Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate (UVA Press), Daniel Mendelsohn has written one of my favorite books of 2020. We get into Homer’s use of Ring Composition and how it shapes Three Rings, how this book grew out of his experience writing An Odyssey, why he chose François Fénelon, Eric Auerbach, and WG Sebald as the three exiled subjects of his book, and how we understand the relationship between “what happened” and “the story of what happened” (that is, how narration changes the nature of facts). We also get into how he managed to compress and capture just about all of his major themes in his briefest book, why Auerbach disliked ring composition, and what it says about Homeric vs. Hebrew — or optimistic vs. pessimistic — styles of story, how every story has more stories embedded in it, and why Istanbul may serve as the fusion of Athens & Jerusalem. We also get into Daniel’s pandemic experience and coping mechanisms for anxiety and dread, his mom’s involvement in Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary about the Holocaust in America, why translation is like a crossword puzzle for him, the negatives of focusing on STEM to the detriment of the liberal arts, and how we can both relate to Auerbach’s comment, “If it had been possible for me to acquaint myself with all the work that has been done on so many subjects, I might have never reached the point of writing.” Give it a listen! And go read Three Rings! (& check out our previous conversation!)

“I was very attracted to the idea of the way in which their own wandering lives ended up being analogs for the narratives they ended up being interested in.”

“For the writer, anything is a subject. Even nothing is a subject, so to speak.”

“Colleges are going to abandon the humanities and go for more STEM stuff than ever, because it’s ’employable’. The irony is that NEVER have we needed the humanities more, because that’s the stuff that tells you how to deal with these crises.”

TUNEIN LINK TK

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

Daniel Mendelsohn teaches at Bard and is Editor-at-Large at The New York Review of Books. His books include An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic; The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million; How Beautiful It Is And How Easily It Can Be Broken: Essays, and, from New York Review Books, Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays from the Classics to Pop Culture, and Ecstasy and Terror: From the Greeks to Game of Thrones. His new book is Three Rings: A Tale of Exile, Narrative, and Fate

There’s a longer version at his website.

Follow Daniel 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. Photos of Daniel by me. It’s on my instagram.