Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Great Gobs of Wonderful

There are moviegoers who make a point of missing superhero movies, and I can't blame them, although I confess to a weakness for the genre. I liked both of the "Crow" movies, and "Daredevil," "The Hulk" and "X2," but not enough to recommend them to friends who don't like or understand comic books. "Spider-Man 2" is in another category: It's a real movie, full-blooded and smart, with qualities even for those who have no idea who Stan Lee is. It's a superhero movie for people who don't go to superhero movies, and for those who do, it's the one they've been yearning for.

I was going to write a review, but Mr. Ebert gets it exactly right. Don't waste time clicking on the link just yet, get to a theater as soon as you can and enjoy the hell out of Spider-Man 2. Then come back and read it.

Nerd up!

I did better than I thought I would.

Real Samurai
Real Samurai

Real Samurai You are trully The Real Samurai. Your honor and your Master are the most important things in your life, you'll die for them without any emotions or hesistation. You are living in one day. Everyday in your life is the last day. You are doing anything and everything today and doing it best, because you can't do it tomorrow. Tomorrow will never come to you. There are no borders for you in your life if you are following the code. Code of Samurai.

Things I Learned in College

All quotes from the instructor of "Dinosaurs and More! Geology Explored."

"You can picture it at length . . . let's say you're into length."

"I do know a fair amount about radiation and some of the dangers."

"I wouldn't want to put this in my pocket, uh, near my, uh, my genitals for several hours, uh . . . that would be no good."

"What do you do if you want to get from Chicago to Los Angeles? You get in your car, or on your bicycle--which I've done--and you go."

"It has that nice smell, if you're into pine tar."

"What's this?

. . . dino poo!"

"Swallow yourself a whole carrot, what are you gonna find the next day?" (looks behind him) "A whole carrot! You think you're gonna get much vitamin A from that?"

"Going home and concentrating very intently is a good use of your raw emotion."

"Lifting images is fine, it's how we create something."

"Obviously you don't have to draw, if you're not an artist, as I am not. Well, not in the drawing sense, you'll hear my guitar playing and maybe judge . . . uh, accordingly."

"Scientists are bad . . . bad, bad, bad."

"Rattlesnakes are not a predator. I've got pictures of me taunting a rattlesnake. I'll bring 'em in."

"In my delinquent days I'd go down to the railroad tracks . . . and the rocks without fossils . . . " (feigns throwing something) ". . . at the trains!"

"I'm just makin' a perpendicular . . . heh!"

"And that includes alligators. Everyone always asks me, 'what about alligators?'" (squints eyes, nods very fast) "Same . . . family."

"Watch a lizard, they're . . . they're boppin' all over the place."

"If you have a hinged ankle you're gonna walk like THIS . . . like THIS . . . and I'm not trying to make fun of people who have a . . . perpetual deformity . . ."

(in a weird Japanese accent) "Ve are coming to take you ovah! So sorry!"

"So it's good that Artie made it out drinking Miller . . . not that I had no, uh, alcoholic material with me, uh, probably, when I was . . . camping."

"They are herbivores, so they what? Smoked herb, no, they ate plants."

"He's gonna go *chomp* and you're gonna go *spin* and turn your head toward him? What?"

"Mating? I don't see how it's gonna help with mating. During the act? I dunno."

"Here, smell this piece of underwear and track down the thing."

"Our ties were about THIS long because we wanted the BIGGEST, THICKEST knots we could possibly have."

"Remember, don't do bad drugs, that's the motto of my life . . . I'm supposed to be the adult influence in your life."

"Stay up late at night, good things happen when you're up late at night."

"How many of you have taken Rover for a walk and found him eating the dead, flattened, dry squirrel in the street?"

"Do I care what's behind me if I'm a T-rex? Nooo. Because I'm gonna kick its butt."

"What's a good walking pace, what do you think? About three miles per hour, that's a good one. I can do about three and a half."

"It makes scientists think that some dinosaurs were warm-blooded--I'll put hot-blooded here, because it sounds cooler."

Monday, June 28, 2004

maybe this explains my zombie dreams

Dear Jesus,

The next time we have an earthquake near Chicago, I'd appreciate it if I could actually notice it. You don't have to make it bigger or anything, just make the lights dim right before it happens or something. Thanks!

Your pal,


Sunday, June 27, 2004

"I caught you a delicious bass."

Napoleon Dynamite is funny for a lot of reasons. The biggest is Jon Heder as Napoleon, for his delivery of lines like "Would you bring me chapstick? My lips hurt real bad!" and "It took me like three hours to finish the shading on your upper lip." But I enjoyed his performance even more for the subtle touches--the heavy breathing that introduces the character as he waits for the bus, and the way he leaps down the steps of his house when he goes to feed his grandma's pet llama ("Tina, come get some ham!").

The film revels in quiet awkwardness, like a Wes Anderson-inspired cousin of Todd Solondz. But when I like something so much that I wish it was better--like Tim Burton's BIG FISH or the House's recent production of ROCKET MAN--I tend to be hyper cognizant of where it stumbles, or where it tries too hard. There's a lot of original cleverness in NAPOLEON, but there were a few jokes that were so familiar they made me a little uncomfortable.

When Napoleon and his brother Kip take a free class in "Rex Kwan Doe," the instructor, with his bandana, sunglasses, and American flag-colored pants, is a direct descendent of the UPRIGHT CITIZEN BRIGADE'S Steve Youngblood; when Napoleon shares a slow dance with the girl he has a crush on the camera slowly pans up and away, in a homage/parody to countless sitcoms--just like FREAKS AND GEEKS did five years ago; and when Napoleon and his friend Pedro hang up posters for Pedro's campaign for class president the theme from THE A-TEAM plays over a montage of the pair unrolling masking tape, hanging posters on lockers, and clasping hands. The same song was used to similar effect when Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, David Wain, and Paul Rudd foraged for hot dogs in STELLA'S short video "The Woods." The filmmakers have great tastes in comedy, but if anyone else shares them these scenes will ring familiar.

All that said, ND's failings are far outweighed by the things it does right--I'd take friends to see it again. But mostly I wish the filmmakers had shown more of the creativity they expressed in creating Uncle Rico, the former high school football player who bets he could still throw a football "over those mountains." And I hope Jon Heder can avoid becoming another Jason Schwartzman, doomed because in his debut he played an unforgettable character.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Jack Ryan

Jack Ryan is officially out of the Illinois Senate race, and I actually think that's pretty lousy. I didn't care for Ryan from the beginning--he's pretty much your average Republican, saying nothing new about anything. He was an investment banker who made a few million dollars, then went into teaching at a private school four years ago in a paper-thin move to pad his resume before moving into politics. Maybe he thought his grin-and-wink good looks could get him through, and maybe they would have, if there hadn't been a Democratic candidate in Barack Obama who was genuinely exciting, charismatic, and possibly even principled. He's been leading Ryan in the polls since they won their respective primaries, and by all accounts he would have thumped Ryan in November. Ryan was desperate, and even tried having aides trail Obama with a video camera everywhere he went, defended by a Ryan spokesperson with, "If he%92s running for public office, he should expect public attention."

So, yeah, Jack Ryan knew he was losing and the tricks he was trying to turn things around were low and weren't working. But when the Chicago Tribune sued to have the files from his divorce unsealed (which Ryan fought, in spite of the above quote, I suppose) it was revealed that his ex-wife Jeri Ryan had claimed that her husband had pressured her to go to "sex clubs" in various cities and have sex in front of strangers. Ryan claimed this wasn't true, that they had gone to oneavantte-garde" club in Paris that made them both uncomfortable, and that they soon left, never to return. They both stuck by their original stories when the records were unsealed, and the leaders of the GOP turned on Ryan. Ryan weathered a week of controversy, vowing to soldier on, then dropped out of the race on Friday.

I don't like Jack Ryan and I never did, but I think that's pretty lousy. Aside from being a jerk to his wife for trying to pressure her into something she was uncomfortable with, he didn't do anything wrong--he didn't even do anything illegal. He did something kind of dumb, in expecting sealed documents pertaining to his sex life to remain private while he was running dirty tricks of his own in a Senate campaign, but as far as I know being dumb doesn't disqualify someone from a political life. It doesn't even disqualify you from buying fireworks, if that's your bag.

So One, I don't think Ryan should have to give up his bid for Senate for being an asshole to Seven-of-Nine; and Two, it would have been really cool to watch Obama bury him in November. Back to teaching rich kids, I guess.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Magnum, Annie D.

Dating someone new? Curious about someone you dated a year ago? Want more information?

Call Annie D!

She's a web-stalker like you've never seen before. Just in her spare time she can find more blogs and embarrassing pictures than you thought possible. But don't take MY word for it:

"Even if you know the person has somewhat of a web presence, I can find MORE than you'd expect there to be."

Oh, really, Anne? But what's your specialty?

"Exes. I can find 'em, and most likely I can find pictures of 'em. Then I can find out who their friends are and where they're hanging out. Wanting me to actually make contact is going to be extra. If the person's last name is Smith, Cooper or Johnson I can't help you."

Fantastic! And just today, in her spare time mind you, she sent me two updates that pertained to my very own self. Maybe she likes helping people, maybe she just doesn't sleep, maybe her own life is lacking that Something Special and she seeks fulfillment in the hidden pasts of others . . . who's to say? We can't hope to understand a mind so far beyond our own!

Mothers, lock up your sons!

Monday, June 21, 2004


Me and Dad sat in the car while Mom went in to order the pizza and wait for it. I don't know if it was premeditated, but it gave us some time to hang out and catch up. He asked how things were going, and I told him, as truthful as I could. I asked how things were going, and he told me. My family was getting old. Dad's back went out every other month and my grandparents, those that were left, weren't long for the world. Grandma Mathews needed a wheelchair and she had diabetes and wore diapers. Ma Fry was still working, but sometimes when you saw her she just looked old, and she'd never been that way before. The cigarettes would never get to her, but last year she broke her wrist getting out of the shower, and she still can't move her fingers very well on that hand. Grandpa Jent lived in a home and he couldn't remember the last twenty years very well; his short term memory was shot altogether. He didn't know who I was.

"Vascular dementia," Dad said. "It's pretty much Alzheimer's. His circulation ain't what it used to be, so the blood don't get up to his brain enough. The nerves up there, the things that control your memory, they're not getting the blood, so they quit working, and they just die off. It'll kill him eventually, but hell, I don't know how long. It's what did Reagan in, and he had it for ten years. At least. And good news--"

(Dad slapped me in the chest with the back of his hand)

"--it's hereditary." Dad laughed. Mom came back with the pizza.

The Annie's Back In Town

A quick update before I'm off to find some caffeine--our gal Annie D. has a new web presence over at MySpace. It's a blog, it's a profile, it's a scam of some sort I'm sure, but for those of us who have missed her blog since its untimely demise, oh my oh my, it's nice to have her back on the interweb. Meredith, rejoice!

My own profile is up right here. It's kind of like this thing, but more people will read it.

Coming up: How I Learned To Ride A Bike, and One Line Wonders: The Man in the Woods.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Not really a vacation

I'll be boot-scootin' it in Ohio this weekend, so I need my Chicago people to help me out--the Magnificent Ambersons is showing at the Music Box Saturday and Sunday, so somebody needs to check it out for me; and Howard Dean will be at a health care rally in Grant Park on Saturday, so I need someone to give him a high five on my behalf. I really, really wish I could make it to that. Instead, I'll be learning how to ride a bike.

Annie's in charge while I'm gone.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Imaginary Friends

When I was a kid my imaginary friend was named Ernie. He wore a shirt like Ernie from Sesame Street, one with lots of tiny stripes, but other than that I don't think he had much of an appearance. Mostly he accompanied me places and watched things that I did. I explained to him what I was doing and why, and often talked to him when I was trying to fall asleep, or when I was by myself in the bathtub or out in the woods. If I had chores to do, pulling the weeds from the driveway say, I would explain it to Ernie: "we have pull the weeds up and make sure we get the roots, then fill up the bucket. After the bucket is full we can throw the weeds over the fence."

Ernie stuck around the longest, but I had an entire cast of characters. No-Name was a big, bulky kid, at first a bully, until I did something nice for him and we became friends. He has hair like one of the dogs from Loony Tunes cartoons that fell over his eyes, covering them completely. Eggmund was my arch-enemy, and his name came from what I believed at the time to be the name of the bratty kid from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe cartoon I had on VHS. We got in a fistfight once, which involved me swinging at the air and then getting fake-punched, and then rolling around the living room floor with an invisible assailant. I believe we wound up being friends eventually too, however. Or maybe Eggmund was just friends with my other imaginary friends, and that's why he was around so much. I have the vague feeling that there were more, that there were dozens of them, but those are the only three that I remember.

I'm working on a project for one of my classes in which I have to research something and write an essay of "instances." I'm interested in writing about imaginary friends, how people interacted with them, and what they remember of them or think of them as adults. I assumed they were pretty common, but most of the friends I've asked say they didn't have any. So I'm asking around, collecting anecdotes and taking notes for now. If anyone remembers having imaginary friends and wants to share something, even just names or a story or two, let me know. I'll be most appreciative and I'll get a copy of the final paper in your hands, if you're interested. Or, just drop a "no, I never had any" in the comment box, that would be helpful too. If you have anything to share you can submit it in the comments or send me a note to

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Things Said To Me On The Street

"Hola, amigo. Good morning."

Elephants, Part Two

(From Me)

Hello. My name is Matthew Jent and I am a writer living in Chicago. I have recently heard that two of the four elephants you have at the San Francisco Zoo have died, one being euthanized due to chronic colic, arthritis and foot and bone infections, the other from a "sickness" I do not the origin of. I understand that the first was 37 years old, the second 44 years old. I also understand you have two remaining elephants in your care, and that sanctuaries have offered to take them into their care so that they might live in a more natural environment that is conducive to their physical and mental health. I understand that the San Francisco Zoo has yet to take action on these offers.

Did you know that the Detroit Zoo recently announced that they would no longer be exhibiting elephants? They have done this because, despite the fact that elephants are a mainstay at American zoos, it has been
proven time and again that elephants in captivity suffer much shorter lifespans than do elephants in the wild, and that while they are alive they suffer from a number of physical and emotional ailments. I am curious, as I'm sure many people are curious, why you continue to exhibit elephants in your zoo.

I know that you care about animals, and that's why you are in the business you are in. That's why I'm writing to ask that you do the right thing for these elephants and put them in an environment they can thrive in.

Thank you for your time. If I have sent this email to the wrong department in error, could you please forward it to the proper department? I would greatly appreciate it.

Matthew Jent

(From Cindy Cameron of the San Francisco Zoo)

Matthew, thank you for caring enough to write. The decision has beenmade to send our remaining two elephants to a sanctuary. We're not sure which ones yet, but we have started the "crate" training for our elephants to help make the move smoothly and with the least amount of stress to them. After all, they have been here most all of their lives.

Thank you for your interest in the San Francisco Zoo.

Cindy Cameron
Docent Coordinator, Education Department
San Francisco Zoo

(Send her a note telling her how rad she is)

Monday, June 14, 2004

Fishing with Willem

Quotable quotes from Willem Dafoe's appearance on Fishing with John:

"Y'know what? I get kinda sweet when it comes to bedtime."

"I mean, I'm not a big meat eater, but occasionally I like to . . . eat meat. I don't mind the grainier . . . venison."

"Cheese on cheese . . . cheese on cheese . . . cheese on cheese."

And the narrator's take:

"The situation's growing serious. John and Willem have consumed only melted snow since their supply of cheese crackers ran out two days ago."

"On December 19th, John Lurie and Willem Dafoe died of starvation."

Hey, Ohio

It was only two months ago that I had gotten a most pessimistic outlook on our Ohio House challengers. Talking to several people in the Ohio Democratic Party establishment, word was that none of the incumbents from either party were really threatened. And without any open seat battles, Ohio's only political question mark was the presidential race.

Two months later, it seems Ohio Dems are feeling a bit more optimistic, especially about three specific races, Ben Konop in the 4th CD, Jane Mitakides in the 3rd, and Jeff Seemann in the 16th.

From Kos.

Make sure you're registered!

A Brief History of Cats at My Parent's House

Peaches was my mother's cat and is the archetypal cat, for my life and for all time. Every other cat is judged as to how like or unlike they are to Peaches. Peaches was a kitten, then she had kittens, then her kittens had kittens. She grew old and she was the matriarch of all cats on my back porch. She lived outside, just like all of them lived outside, because in my childhood years, there was no such thing as an indoor pet. After many years (after my whole life) she got sick, so sick that she couldn't eat and she couldn't move and she couldn't see. She could make noise, but only for help, or out of pain. My dad took her behind the shed and my mom cried.

There was another, one of Peaches' kittens, and her name was Spot, or possibly Cleo. Both of them sound right. In her youth she hung out in the woods mostly an didn't like to be touched by people. After awhile--and it truly seemed like many years, for Spot (or possibly Cleo) was one of Peaches' first kittens and was a kitten for ages, though it was probably only one summer--she had kittens of her own, and she calmed down a little bit. After Peaches dies Spot (Cleo) settled down a lot and started to hang out on the porch, and to sleep there under the picnic table, and she even let you pet her sometimes.

Tiger was the first cat I ever named. She was Spot's (Cleo's) kitten. She got hit by a car. There were a lot more, but they tend to fade out and fold in on one another.

Peaches' line (and I like to think of it as a dynasty) eventually died out and my folks didn't have cats anymore for a long time. But once when I came to visit, after I'd dropped out of school the first time but before I left for Chicago, I found a kitten hiding in the tirewell of my dad's pick-up truck. I coaxed it out from under the truck and I fed him and he took to living on the back porch. My parents had a cat again and I named him T-Bone. I'd named a few cats by then, and I knew how it was done.

A female cat started to show up and my mom named her Mrs. T, and who knew my mom had that kind of sense of humor? T-Bone, being a wanderer at heart, took to disappearing for weeks at a time, coming back to eat and rest for a few days, before he disappeared altogether. I like to think that he's made it up to the northern forests of Canada by now. But before he left for good he started his own dynasty with Mrs. T. Now my parents have half a dozen cat, and Mrs. T rules over them all.

Kurt Vonnegut

And do you know why I think he is so pissed off at Arabs? They invented algebra. Arabs also invented the numbers we use, including a symbol for nothing, which nobody else had ever had before. You think Arabs are dumb? Try doing long division with Roman numerals.

We're spreading democracy, are we? Same way European explorers brought Christianity to the Indians, what we now call "Native Americans."

How ungrateful they were! How ungrateful are the people of Baghdad today.

So let's give another big tax cut to the super-rich. That'll teach bin Laden a lesson he won't soon forget. Hail to the Chief.

(found the link on Bookslut.)


The Supreme Court preserved the phrase "one nation, under God," in the Pledge of Allegiance, ruling Monday that a California atheist could not challenge the patriotic oath but sidestepping the broader question of separation of church and state.

At least for now, the decision — which came on Flag Day — leaves untouched the practice in which millions of schoolchildren around the country begin the day by reciting the pledge.

The court said atheist Michael Newdow could not sue to ban the pledge from his daughter's school and others because he did not have legal authority to speak for her.

Newdow is in a protracted custody fight with the girl's mother. He does not have sufficient custody of the child to qualify as her legal representative, the court said. Eight justices voted to reverse a lower court ruling in Newdow's favor.


The order in which I have experienced Mr. Charlie Kaufman is thus: Being John Malkovich, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Human Nature, and Adaptation.

I didn't enjoy BJM very much. I don't like John Malkovich, I don't like John Cusak, I don't like Cameron Diaz, and I didn't like the turn the third act of the movie took. Up to that point I was cruising along with it, but then I just didn't dig it. I'd be more specific than that, but you know, I haven't seen the movie since the theater in 199-whatever. I caught Confessions because I like George Clooney despite my best efforts otherwise, and because Sam Rockwell is rad. I enjoyed the hell out of it, and only realized later that Kaufman wrote the screenplay. Eternal Sunshine is one of the best movies I've seen this year. Jim Carey and Kate Winslet worked well as part of an ensemble, but I thought Elijah Wood was working a little too hard--but all the same, the quality of the first act followed through the rest of the film and the little touches, like the book titles disappearing and reappearing during the Barnes & Noble scenes, made me want to see it again to see what I missed. After enjoying it so much I sought out Human Nature, directed by Michael Gondry, the director of Eternal Sunshine. Human Nature is a little rougher around the edges, but it still holds up well. It was Kaufman's first movie, but it still works well throughout. Once again, there's a superior cast--Tim Robbins, Patricia Arquette, Miranda Otto and Rhys Ifans are all wonderfully strange.

So I decided to check out Adaptation. I avoided it in the theaters because it was Spike Jonez and Kaufman and Nic Cage, and at the time that combination didn't seem too encouraging. But a lot of clever people have recommended it, and with Eternal Sunshine and Human Nature on his side, I thought I should give it a shot. And to be fair to Nic Cage, he and his mustache were wonderful in Raising Arizona.

For the first 2/3rds of the movie, I was in love. The time switches ("Three Years Earlier"), the horrible hair, the repetition, the masturbation, the writing and re-writing, repetition, the reading and note-taking and horrible awkwardness of asking out a waitress and realizing mid-sentence that It's All Going Horribly Wrong, the repetition--it was wonderful. Even the inclusion of the filming of Being John Malkovich was lovely. Well done, Mr. Jonez and Mr. Kaufman! You have most of a wonderful movie on your hands!

And then, yeah, Donald takes over. Yeah, I get it. Kaufman's Hollywood tendencies break through, he gives in to pandering to an audience, I understand all that. I realize it was done on purpose, but that doesn't excuse the fact that the last third of the movie was awful. It was an almost-clever idea that was executed horribly. If it had been done as another dream sequence-slash-fantasy that lasted for a few minutes, that would have been interesting. But it ran away with the rest of the movie, god's sake. I wanted to see the scene where Nic Cage plays Nic Cage talking to someone about playing the role of Charlie & Donald Kaufman! I feel like I've somehow been robbed of seeing the ending of a really swell picture.

Kaufman's next movie is again a pairing with Spike Jonez. Someone should just handcuff the dude to Michael Gondry's wrist, and maybe they'd make more movies together. My oh my.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Summertime Happened

It was nice and breezy and cool over the weekend, and somewhere someone decided it was time to get hot. Whoever it was forgot to send an air conditioner my way first, so I'm putting a hex on the people across from me who run it all day and all night, while I run my one ceiling fan and lay around with my cat, sweating and feeling gross.

It's that magical time of year, folks!

Monday, June 07, 2004

it's new music monday

I'm only three songs into it, but I'm already in love--I got a copy of the music issue of The Believer today, which comes with a cd. So for eight bucks you get the magazine and a disc with songs by the Walkmen, the Gossip, the Mountain Goats, Enon, I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness, the Books, the Buried Beds, Beulah, M. Ward, Papa M, Death Cab for Cutie, Young People, TV on the Radio, Tiny Hawks, the Constantines, Ted Leo + Pharmacists, Alec K. Redfern and the Eyesores, and Iron & Wine. Pick it up a soon as possible.

Eddie Campbell, Comics

Eddie Campbell is one of my very favorite comic book people. A few sample pages from his upcoming issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA are here.

Eddie drew FROM HELL and wrote and drew the wonderful series of ALEC books, including my personal favorite, "How to be an Artist." He usually works in black and white--in fact, I think this is the only time I've seen his work in color, aside from the ALEC and BACCHUS covers. I don't think I would have recognized these pages as Eddie's work if I hadn't known it was him beforehand.

Eddie is my kinda dude. He took the money he made from the FROM HELL film deal and started a magazine, EGOMANIA, that included interviews, letters, and serialized chapters of his new comics work, "The History of Humor." He published it himself through Eddie Campbell Comics out of Australia, distributed here in the states by the very fine folks at Top Shelf. It lasted all of two issues before he ran out of cash and shut down his publishing operation, just like he knew it would. But he still went ahead and did it for two issues, because it was something he desperately wanted to do. Sure, it wasn't financially responsible--but when are fun ideas financially responsible?

I believe Eddie has a Batman project in the works too, a painted graphic novel. I'd certainly rather see "The History of Humor" completed and collected, but it's kind of like Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man--Eddie has to take the high profile pervert suit jobs to make enough money to finance the smaller, more personal jobs. It will definitely be interesting, so who can complain?

On a comic nerd note, Eddie on CAPTAIN AMERICA is probably the last of the "New Marvel" projects, where the company was under Jemas and Quesada and willing to try new things. They were out of cash and floundering and J & Q were loud and obnoxious and rude, and they were throwing cash around. They were putting out super hero books, to be sure, but a few of them were really, really good super hero books. Morrison on NEWXMEN, Milligan and Allred on X-STATIX, James Sturm on FANTASTIC FOUR: UNSTABLE MOLECULES . . . it was good stuff. But Morrison has moved back to DC already, Sturm's project was a mini-series, and the last issue of X-STATIX is out sometime this summer. Jemas is out the door, too. By all accounts he was a little on the unstable side himself, but there were interesting projects coming out of Marvel for a few months there. Now it's back to being a factory for future movie projects, selling stories about super heroes written for teenagers to thirty year old men. When Bill Jemas shows up at my door selling #2 pencils out of a suitcase, I won't let him near my cat or anything, but I will give him a high five.

Sunday, June 06, 2004


Well, yes.

Check out James Kochalka's current strip before the next one is posted, and that pretty sums up my super secret thoughts on Ronald Reagan, too.


In an ABC News report on the 60th Anniversary of D-Day, a reporter talked to a veteran who was there for the first wave that hit the beach:

Q: Did you learn any lessons from that war?

A: Yeah, we don't need another one.

I think we go about these things the wrong way, these venerations of acts of war. War should be an act of desperation, the last possible alternative to a situation. In any event, it is a form of failure. If we go to war, it means things have gone terribly wrong, it means that we missed something that we shouldn't have missed, it means we've failed diplomatically. Remembrances of the days when we went to war, of the great battles and the great victories and the great defeats, should looked upon as a time of loss. When American forces stormed the beach at Normandy, it meant that somewhere in the previous ten to twenty years, we lost the chance, or destroyed the chance, to win through other means. Remembering D-Day shouldn't be a rally to war, or a time to remember great battles, or a time to celebrate victories. It should be a time to regret that it happened in the first place. It should be embarrassing and a time of regret, that we let things get that bad before we interfered, in some way or another. That we had to go to war, that we had to invade a beach and that men shot at other men and men were killed by other men, means that we failed.

It's not a time to celebrate, or to be proud of our victories.

As a post script to the previous post about Ronald Reagan, here's a quote from Mr. Reagan himself, from an interview with Mike Wallace in the 70's:

"The greatest leader isn't necessarily the one who does the greatest things, but the one who gets the people to do the greatest things."

Think about that with regard to the actions of Reagan himself as a leader, and Bill Clinton as a leader, and George W. Bush as a leader. With regard to anyone at all as a leader.

"his trademark jellybeans"

I don't think a man's death is the time to drag out all of the reasons one might have to disagree with him, but I also think it's not the time to churn out myths and exaggerations.

Reports from ABC News yesterday did a pretty balanced job of reporting Ronald Reagan's death, I thought. They mostly talked about his achievements, but they also mentioned a few of the down sides about his Presidency. The biggest national deficit until George W., the hovering spectre of Iran-Contra, cutting social programs, economic policies that continue under George W. today . . . they chalked up the Cold War as a victory attributed only to Mr. Reagan, which I would disagree with, but overall, it was pretty fair.

Reports today have been very different. They're of the Reagan Did No Wrong variety, and I expect that trend will continue for the rest of the week until his burial on Friday. One of the most heavily touted claims is that he was the most popular President of the modern era, but Gallup polls report Bill Clinton has having a higher approval rating than Reagan.

I'm not trying to start a Reagan fight today. Meredith and I have gone over that before. But there are a lot of myths out there, and when the subject of them finally passes away, the myths flare up brighter than ever before.

Never doubt the Cos!

Visited the Printer's Row Bookfair today. At a panel for contributors to the Believer, moderated by Daniel Handler, Daniel brought a group of kids on stage at the end, all of them under 10. I can't say for sure how old they were, because I am not That Way, but I'm going to go with 11, at most. He put them in a row at a the table previously occupied by Believer contributors and went down the line, asking them a series of questions. This is a rough transcription.

Q: So when are you getting married, anyway?

A: I don't know. 25 seems like a good age.

Q: Have you ever been kidnapped?

A: No.

Q: Would you like to be kidnapped?

A: Yes.

Q: For a temporary period, or forever?

A: For, like, five months.

Q: Where would you like to stay while you were kidnapped?

A: In some guy's cellar, I guess.

Q: I have a cold, particularly in my throat. What would you recommend for it?

A: Take a hot bath and swallow some of the hot water, and then the cold won't be in your throat anymore.

Q: So, for my cold, you'd recommend a pun?

A: Yes.

Q: If someone in your family were a spy, who would it be?

A: My brother.

Q: Why?

A: Because he's always trying to find out when I don't do my homework, and then he tells my parents, or the teacher.

Q: When's your bedtime, and when would you like it to be?

A: 8:30 on weekdays, and I'd like it to be 9. 9 on weekends, and I'd like it to be 10.

(a rather lengthy conversation occurred here regarding what she did with her afternoons. It mostly involved supper, a bath, and watching movies. The general censuses was that she really hadn't presented a very strong case for the half-hour later bedtime.)

Q: If asked to quit school and join the circus tomorrow, would you join the circus?

A: Yes.

Q: What kind of skills do you have to offer the circus?

A: Clowning.

Q: I understand you're in a rock band called the Blisters. What do you do for the Blisters?

A: I hold up signs.

Q: What do the signs say?

A: I heart the Blisters.

He then went down the line and asked everyone what their favorite song was. The answers are as follows.

-don't know.
-"Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana.
-"Seven Nation Army" by the White Stripes.
(at which point it was remarked that they had sophisticated taste in music)
-Don't have one.
-"Meant to Live" by Switchfoot. Daniel Handler hadn't heard of that, and I haven't either.

End result of the panel--The Cos was right all along, and kids do indeed say the darnedest things.

Technical note--I'll be going back to Ohio for a few days in the middle of June, at which point there will probably be children around. I believe I will ask them things. I am hereby taking suggestions as to what I should ask them.

Also--there's a very fine film starring Adrien Brody and Milla Jovovich, written and directed by Greg Pritikin and called Dummy. It's funny and awkward and deserves to be seen.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Tony Millionaire!

Tony Millionaire did a signing at Chicago Comics tonight (and he may still be doing a signing at Chicago Comics, depending on when you read this), and it was perfectly swell to meet the man and have him sign my copy of When We Were Very Maakies. He was quite polite and friendly, and enjoyed showing off his creepy handshake.

But what I was most interested in was the couple who met Mr. Tony Millionaire right before I did. A fella and his lady, the fella lingered back behind his girlfriend. He was pretty quiet and wore a backpack; she clutched a Maakies book in her hands and had a big ol' grin, and I thought, "This is a pleasant surprise. A girl is dragging her dude to meet a comic artist." I didn't think it in those words so much, but the sentiment was there. It Made Me Happy. But then she introduced her boyfriend to Tony as "Your #1 Fan," to which Tony smiled and pleasantly, and The Fan smiled sheepishly. They chatted briefly about how Tony wished his strip ran in the Chicago Reader, (he's too famous, they told him), and about how The Fan was an aspiring comics writer. They shook hands again (there was some confusion over the creepiness of the creepy handshake--apparently only one person is allowed to be creepy at a time. I know it's vague, but just trust me--if you received this handshake, and my friend, I will be happy to demonstrate the next time you and I are out for pop and Indian food, you would be a little creeped out), and The Fan and His Lady left. I stepped up and had my book signed (and replied truthfully no when T.M. asked if I worked for the Reader) while The Fan and His Lady lingered to my right.

"What?" Tony Millionaire asked.

"What?" said The Fan.

"Do you want to ask me something?" Tony Millionaire asked.

"What?" said The Fan.

"Do you want to ask me something? Do you want to give me your zine?" Tony Millionaire asked.

"What? No," said The Fan.

"Are you in love?" Tony Millionaire asked.

"What?" said The Fan. "With her?"

Tony Millionaire smiled, arched his eyebrows and pointed to himself.

"Oh," said The Fan, and his face turned red.

"He is," said His Lady.

"Do you love her too?" Tony Millionaire asked.

"Yes," said The Fan.

I left the store a few steps behind The Fan and His Lady. His Lady spotted me on the train platform and asked how it looked, because The Fan was feeling a bit embarrassed about the exchange. He's a big fan after all (#1 is what I've heard), and he reads the strip every Wednesday. I told him it all looked fine to me, and to just remember that besides being a swell and inventive cartoonist, Tony Millionaire is just some guy drinking a beer (which he was). The Fan said yeah, he knew that, but he still gets nervous.

My train was approaching and I had to run. I told him again that it was fine, that I was sure Tony Millionaire was flattered. His Lady thanked me, I gave them a thumb's up, and headed home.

NEXT: Why kids maybe aren't so bad after all.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Damn, Bill Murray!

Coffee & Cigarettes is written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. I saw it tonight at the Music Box in Chicago.

I will say this--there are some very good bits in it. The flick is made up of a series of vignettes, and everyone knows the gimmick by now. They all involve smoking cigarettes, they all involve drinking coffee. They were filmed over the course of 17 years, and I'd be curious to know which were filmed when. In some of the pieces, there seems to be a greater awareness of the piece as a whole. I particular enjoyed the three pieces that closed the film, "Cousins?" with Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan, "delirium" with RZA, GZA, and Bill Murray, and "Champagne" with Taylor Mead and Bill Rice.

The film wins the most when it repeats itself--Tom Waits and RZA are both doctors, for example, and they're both late for the meetings (with Iggy Pop and GZA, respectively) because they've been caught up in minor medical emergencies. Tesla pops up a few times, as does the fact that those things will kill you. The same cell phone (all Star Trek flip-open style) pops up a few times, and dreams as fast as the Indy 500.

When the vignettes work, they work very well. But when they don't, they derail pretty badly. The pauses are long and awkward, and not in a real life kind of way--more like in a forced acting kind of way. I really wanted to like the pieces with Steven Wright & Roberto Benigni and Steve Buscemi, Cinque Lee, and Joie Lee, but they didn't come together. The actors seemed to be on different pages. While Bill Murray as a busboy worked quite well, Steve Buscemi as a busboy was more distracting than anything else.

"No Problem," about two friends reuniting with one insisting that all is well in his life and the other not quite believing, brought the movie to a halt. Many of the problems I have with the movie are when nothing happens in the vignettes but banal back and forth conversations. Truth can be found in everyday conversations, to be sure, but it's obvious that this film is going about it the wrong way when a piece like "Champagne," with two old men on a coffee break, flows so well and "No Problem" simply looks like it tries too hard.

Having said that, there were things that worked really, really well in Coffee & Cigarettes, things that needed work, and things that went the wrong way entirely. But it's certainly worth seeing for the former.