Friday, July 30, 2004

Real Quick Like

You remember Annie, don't you? Of course you do. She's putting a zine together, called Real Quick Like. The first issue's topic is "Last to See Them Alive" and she's putting out the call for submissions. 3,000 words, the deadline is September 1st, and you can interpret the theme in as many ways as you see fit. The official information is below--submit something, already.

* * * * *

Real Quick Like

Topic: Last to see them alive.

Ready and go.  Procrastination is not your friend, dear writer. One month. You write ‘em, we want ‘em. From the gut. Stories, poetry, essays, fiction or non. Let the topic inspire you, and then send it on.
No time for writer’s block. We are looking for original, unpublished work from writers of all shapes and sizes, deadline September 1. Adhere to the date, stick to the topic, keep it under 3,000 words and all other rules be damned.

No, you will not be paid. Not just yet. But you will see your work in print alongside other talented writers and distributed to every web ring, zine shop and department store bathroom from Jersey to Sausalito.

Please send submissions and questions electronically to with your name and contact information. Published work for first publication rights only. Accepted work will be compiled into a real pretty-like journal, with funds determining whether pretty means tri-color glossy or stapled together on neon green copy paper. Winners will receive one complimentary copy.

No excuses! Submission is free, with no limit to the number of pieces you can submit. Now go make your mama proud.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

21st Century Boy

I took Ernie, my new iPod, out for a walk today. It was my first time walking around the city with headphones on. I kept thinking I heard someone walking behind me, but I was wrong.

Oh, the Summer of Firsts!

Is that a phone?

I've been a picture taking FOOL these days.

I was exploring parks today. There are more up at my futurephone blog.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Powder Blue

Zipping down sidestreets at nearly midnight with nothing beneath me but two wheels and pavement, I name you MATTITTITTI. There's Thai food waiting at home (and I don't even like Thai food, baby) and Thai food waiting behing me (though that Thai food wasn't so bad) and all I can think about is, how can I make this trip last longer and longer and longer than it should? What happens when I'm home and I don't know what to do with myself because I'm not moving 11.9 miles per hour?

No, I know what I'll do. I'll pour peroxide on my knuckles and bandage them tight, and I'll think, Hell, at least I have all of my toenails. And written on my ankle, in blue ink: is ANKLE.

Mattittitti, he takes me where I need to be, even though it's away from where I might rather stay.

Thursday, July 22, 2004


And I looked, and behold, a pale horse . . .


. . . and hell followed with him.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Comics Show!

RAW, BOILED & COOKED: COMICS ON THE VERGE is coming to the Chicago Cultural Center August 7-October 3.

From the card:

"This traveling exhibition is a survey of North American graphic novelists and comic artists inspired by the ground breaking RAW MAGAZINE. It includes storyboards, installations, video and computer art by over 40 artists, including Lynda Barry, Charles Burns, Julie Doucet, Bill Griffith, Gary Panter, art spiegelman and Chicago's own Chris Ware."

The Chicago Cultural Center is located at 78 E. Washington Street, awfully close to Art Institute. It's a swell building, and best of all kids, it's free free free! If you're in town for Wizard World in August and you need a break from the super-heroics, take the train downtown and check out the show. There's an opening reception Friday August 6th from 6-8 pm, and I'm excited as all heck about the show.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Lonely Blogging Blues

Maybe it's just me, but I was a lot more interested in catching up with Atrios every day when it was actually Atrios doing the posting. It would be rad if he actually came from the dead, or wherever he is, sometime soon.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Things I Learned in College: Semester Wrap-Up

"None of you's been in space here, have you?"

"You think DRUGS are expensive? Ha! Get yourself a meteor!"

"If they had changed direction I would have had to evacuate--I loaded up their fancy Indian artwork in the van, and I would have had to move the animals I and I was NOT looking forward to THAT. I am not, obviously, a mule person."

"Scratch to your heart's content, you won't be able to scratch my quartz."

"So, it's slippery, it's really soft and slippery."

"Minerals have sexy properties."

"I'm sick. I'm sick and single."

"Of course, it's an INDUSTRIAL diamond--no one's gonna get engaged to me with THIS--of course, no one's probably EVER gonna get engaged to me."

"Something happens . . . down there. Something has to crack."

"Life is nuts. Hopefully, I just pleased my boss."

"When you see the WAVES on the GROUND . . . you know you're in . . . deep doo-doo."

"Just shake a little bit. Move a little bit, and you won't shake apart."

"60 people dying is nothing out of five million. Obviously, it's bad for those people . . . but imagine if it had been somewhere like Iran . . . and I'm not jamming on anybody from Iran, but . . ."

"Is that gonna make you go, 'I'm selling my house, I'm moving to Montana'? No. You're not going to do that. Unless you already wanted to move to Montana."

Cat Wrestling!

Jen K. Messer takes good pictures. She came over to my house and took some, just to prove it.

She also shoots good videos. They are short and you can find them here. I would recommend "Gleemy" and Odyssey 201.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Things I Learned in College: Summer of '79 Edition

"Summer of '79. Man, that was crazy."

"*You're* fried, man . . . I was still fried from 1979."

"It get's really *crazy* at the end . . . it's like, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?"

"I've recovered, I've recovered from my summer of . . . '79."

"You gonna bathe in Dasani, you gonna *wash* in Dasani? Some movie stars might . . . Michael Jackson sleeps in a . . . oxygen chamber. With little kids."

"And what do you do if you're sitting on marble and you're a geologist? You drop . . . acid! Yeah!"

"Each corner of the planetarium is a sign of the zodiac! Yeah! It's an astronomy thing! Er, astrology."

(looking at a picture of a table he built, a student says, "It looks really professional.")
"Thank you. Well, I build guitars."

All Barack, All the Time

Barack Obama, the Democratic Party's candidate for the Senate in Illinois, will deliver the keynote address at the convention, officials announced Wednesday.

Obama, a law professor and state senator, will speak on July 27, the second night of the convention, with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. Obama will talk about the future of America that a Democratic administration would provide, along with the need to make jobs, families and communities top priorities in the lives of Americans.

"Barack is an optimistic voice for America and a leader who knows that together we can build an America that is stronger at home and respected in the world," Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said in a statement.

(If you want to read the whole article, you can swing by BugMeNot for a password.)

(And if you'r in Illinois, make sure you get out to vote for Obama in November--he was going to stomp Ryan no question, but there's always the chance someone like Ditka could pull in a novelty vote. He's not Arnold, but still. Having Obama in the U.S. Senate would be a good, good thing.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Alternative Comics

Cool Kids Assemble! Jeff Mason and Alternative Comics needs your help. If you like comics, and if you've been meaning to spend some of that hard-earned money of yours on cool books in the near future anyway, help out a high quality publisher of high quality books. Their open letter, sent out yesterday, is below in its entirety.

* * * * *

Alternative Comics needs your help!

Please buy our books from your local comic book
store to help Alternative Comics survive!

Dear Comics Fans:

I'm Jeff Mason making a direct appeal to you, our
faithful readers, in a time of serious financial
difficulty. If you could find a way to buy some
of our books listed below, you would greatly help
in our time of financial crisis. Please check off
the books you want below and then buy these books
from your favorite retailer. You can also use the
checklist in the back of your copy of Alternative
Comics #2 that was given out by your local comic
book store on Free Comic Book Day. If your retailer
does not stock our comics and books, they can use
this form below as a way to order our in-stock titles
form any of our distributors.

Alternative Comics is suffering some very dire cash
flow problems and I am turning to you for help. In
the spring of 2002 our book trade distributor, LPC,
filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy owing Alternative Comics
a lot of money. I had hoped that I could weather
the storm by taking money from my savings and by
borrowing on credit until receiving the agreed-upon
42% of what LPC owed us. Now over two years later,
LPC is still in bankruptcy proceedings and I am
completely out of savings and credit.

In the past (prior to LPC) I had ample working capital -
I had great credit terms with my various printers. Now
(post LPC) I have absolutely no working capital and must
pay up front to print every book.

For each publication, I now wait for all of the retailer
advance orders to come in to Diamond, then I contract
Diamond to assign the payment they'd pay to me to my
printer to print the book. This contractual agreement
costs money and cuts into our razor thin margin.

Lack of cash on hand has also caused me to have to shrink
print runs on some books. This increases the cost per
unit of each book, and speeds the looming reprint costs.

I've been increasing my publishing schedule over the last
two years, and in hindsight, I expanded too quickly.
Alternative Comics is moving forward with a much more
reasonable, much more foresighted publishing schedule,
with some really amazing projects in the works!

Alternative Comics' cash flow problems have been the
only reason for not yet reprinting Bipolar #1 and Humor
Can Be Funny as well as having been the only reason a
number of books have been arriving late or re-solicited.

I am asking you to please buy Alternative Comics books
from your local retailers. In my fanciful imagination,
the best result would be for retailers to quickly sell
out of all Alternative Comics books in inventory to
customers and hurriedly place nice reorders with

Alternative Comics has no staff other than myself, so I
am unable to handle orders directly. I ask that readers
buy from your local comic book retailers, and retailers
to buy from your favorite distributors.

The single most important variable for our publishing
efforts is the number of comics or books advance ordered
by retailers. Retailers decide their advance orders of
books based on what you, the reader, let them know you
want to buy.

If you can find it in your hearts to help Alternative Comics,
I will be eternally grateful.

Thank you,

Jeff Mason
Publisher - Alternative Comics

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Grant Morrison

Once a year or so a really smash up Grant Morrison interview appears. There is one up now at Pop Image:

Wise up: the more comics imitate movies, the less need movies will have for comics as a source of imaginative material; let's remember that the movie industry is ONLY NOW learning to simulate the technology and imagination Jack Kirby packed in his pencil 40 years ago.

"As I've been saying to the point of boredom for the last couple of years, our creative community owes it to the future to produce today the insane, logic-shattering, side-splitting day-glo stories which will be turned into all-immersive holographic magic theatre experiences in 40 years time. The comics medium is a very specialized area of the Arts, home to many rare and talented blooms and flowering imaginations and it breaks my heart to see so many of our best and brightest bowing down to the same market pressures which drive lowest-common-denominator blockbuster movies and television cop shows. Let's see if we can call time on this trend by demanding and creating big, wild comics which stretch our imaginations. Let's make living breathing, sprawling adventures filled with mind-blowing images of things unseen on Earth. Let's make artefacts that are not faux-games or movies but something other, something so rare and strange it might as well be a window into another universe because that's what it is. Let's see images which come directly from the minds of inspired artists, not from publicity stills. Superhero comics are way too expensive for the mass market and the brand of garish, violent pulp they were once the only source for is available these days in more attractive media. We should get real about this and stop dumbing down, stop stunting our artists' creativity and stop trying to attract a completely imaginary 'mainstream audience'. The best way to consolidate comics as a viable medium is to make them LESS like other media, not more. Let our artists go wild on imaginative page layouts. Let our writers find stories in their dreams and not in the newspaper pages, at least for a little while again. Aim for the cool, literate 'college' audience, as Stan Lee did to great success in the 60s."

Thursday, July 08, 2004

IF three

Let me tell it back to you and see if I've gotten the spirit of it. You're on stage and the whole place is dim and smokey. You're standing with your legs apart and your head down. You're holding the mic up near your face, your elbow bent. In your other hand you hold the looped microphone cord. You're tapping your foot and setting the tempo. The kids in the crowd are silent and watching you and drinking their beer. Somehow they've all ended up here tonight, kids you went to high school with ten years ago, old crushes from old jobs, that cute boy you saw on the train yesterday. They're staring and they're frowning because they're not sure you've got the balls to go through with it.

Your guitarist starts to play the opening chords of "Sweet Child O' Mine" and the audience looks around at each other. Your whole body starts to move, swaying as the rhythm guitarist joins in, and you lift up the mic and you sing. They're not blown away, not yet, but they're impressed.

After the first chorus you change it up--you signal to the guys in the band they transition into "Welcome to the Jungle." You pull a David Lee Roth high kick and you start to sing and sparks shoot up from either side of you. The crowd nods and they say, "Shit, yeah!" and they swig from their beers and they can't believe how bad ass rock n' roll you are.

You're covered in sweat and you've kicked it into gear. The band plays an extended medley and your a better Axel than Axel ever was. The crowd is singing along and dancing and doing the hip-kid hop, and slowing down and swaying you sing "November Rain" in its entirety. The girls in the back, the ones who aren't as cute as you and know it, along with all of the boys you've broken up with or have broken up with you, shake their heads and scowl because they know they can't touch your shit. But all the same they enjoy the show, because goddamn, how can they not?

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

My Name is John, and I am Funky

When it was down to these two in the primaries I couldn't decide which one I disliked less . . . I was still wrapped in the haze of love for DEAN. But now I'm terribly happy that Edwards was the VP pick over the Gep. I'm not an "Anybody But Bush" kind of guy, but I'll vote for this ticket with no problems.

IF two

When Beth was eight years old, and when her brother was eleven, their parents would leave them home alone. Her brother was in charge, because he was oldest. Beth's brother would torment her in the way that older brothers will, chasing her and hitting her and throwing water on her and breaking her toys. When their parents would leave them home alone, and when Beth's older brother was left in charge, Beth would pretend to stay in bed and be asleep, because then her older brother would leave her alone.

But he would eventually grow bored, and maybe desperate, because he surely knew that when their parents were gone (and when he was in charge), Beth's older brother had a greater degree of freedom than he did otherwise. He could chase her longer and hit her harder than when their parents were there, so he would try to wake her up. He would yell at her and throw things at her, and if Beth still pretended that she was asleep (laying in bed and facing the wall), Beth's older brother would pounce on her and sit on her until their parents came home. Beth said nothing, because Beth was not a rat.

Beth's family lived next door to a church. When Beth's parents left the kids home alone, and when Beth's older brother was in charge, and when pretending to be asleep no longer kept him at bay, Beth would sneak out of the house (because she had learned how to be quiet and stealthy) and she would sneak next door and she would sneak around the side of the church and knock on the cellar door. Patty lived there, in the cellar, and Beth would talk to her. It wasn't for very long that Beth knew Patty, maybe only one summer, and Beth only let her out of the cellar once or twice. They would talk through the door, and the door was shut tight and locked, but about nothing in particular. About hiding from Beth's brother, maybe, or about the school year that had ended and the one that was about to begin. Patty looked like the boy from Mask, the boy with the face that was too big, only not as scary.

Beth and Beth's older brother got older, and Beth's older brother didn't beat up on Beth so much, and Beth didn't go to visit Patty so much, and then not at all. Beth doesn't know where Patty got her name, or what she was doing there in the church cellar, but it gave Beth a reason to get out of the house, and maybe it gave someone for Beth to talk to, when she needed someone to listen to her.

Sunday, July 04, 2004


Have I told you to check out Juan's site lately?

You should.

IF one

When Chris was in the Fifth Grade, at a private Catholic school in Chicago, he and a group of friends were the center of controversy for about a week or so when they created a new deity to worship. They called Him the Gutamagata Guy (GOO-ta-ma-GA-ta) and lines were drawn on the playground and in the hallways. What the Gutamagata Guy could do and why he should be worshipped weren't the point, only that Chris and his friends did and the others didn't.

"It was just a bunch of Fifth Graders ranting about how they were gonna worship a new guy (as opposed to that old guy . . . god) and were we with them or against them," he said. After the controversy died down, so did the Gutamagata Guy. Until I asked Chris if he remembered having any imaginary friends. Before telling me the truth, Chris told me something else.

"I called him the Gutamagata Guy. I was probably seven or eight, and he didn't last all that long. I used to pretend I was carrying him on my shoulders when I walked around in the woods behind my house, and I used to get mad at him because a) he had an ice cream cone most of the time and I didn't, and b) his cone kept dripping on my head. So I'd put him down, and he'd sneak back up there again. Fucked up."

But Chris came clean immediately and told me the truth, that the Gutamagata Guy had been made up later, by friends at school. He told me he wished he'd had a proper imaginary friend when he was a kid, or what he supposed was a proper imaginary friend, and he used the opportunity of my asking him about to dream one up. He named him after the demigod collectively imagined by his class. "The memory lasts, mostly because I really like saying 'Gutamagata Guy.'" And he has a point, it is really fun. You should try it.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Books A Go-Go

Because I've been meaning to write this one for awhile, and because it provides a distraction from doing Real Work, here's my reading list/book-buying list for the last month-or-so:

THE SOLACE OF OPEN SPACES by Gretel Ehrlich. Gretel went to Wyoming working a documentary for Public Broadcasting shortly after finding out that her partner and boyfriend was terminally ill. He died and she traveled around for awhile, not sure what to do with herself. She wound up back in Wyoming, working on the ranches she'd been reporting on previously. The essays in this book were written over a period of six years and they're about how she wound up there, why she stayed, Wyoming, cowboys, rodeos, and what it means when a rancher tells you, "You're a bad check." (Answer: "bouncing in and out was intolerable, and even coming back would be no good.") This book is short but dense, and it's beautiful.

THE ORWELL READER by George Orwell. Containing essays, novel excerpts, and reportage, it offers a deeper understanding of the dude who wrote 1984 and ANIMAL FARM. The most visceral might be "Shooting an Elephant," an essay/memory on imperialism: "The people said that the elephant had come suddenly upon him round the corner of the hut, caught him with its trunk, put its foot on his back and ground him into the earth. This was the rainy season and the ground was soft, and his face had scored a trench a foot deep and a couple of yards long. He was lying on his belly with arms crucified and head sharply twisted to one side. His face was coated with mud, the eyes wide open, the teeth bared and grinning with an expression of unendurable agony. (Never tell me, by the way, that the dead look peaceful. Most of the corpses I have seen looked devilish.)"

MY LIFE by Bill Clinton. It's a massive one, and I've only started cracking it. I like Bill Clinton a lot, even though he didn't do as much as he could have--he still did many a good thing, and it's even clearer in retrospect than it was at the time, considering what we have now. It's done in a simple style, but it's still captivating knowing the man who is writing it. It's especially interesting reading stories about how he beat up other kids, or was beaten up himself--once by a goat--and realizing that to tell a story like that you have to have a certain confidence and willingness to look the fool. I can't imagine certain other presidents sharing a story like that.

WHEN WE WERE VERY MAAKIES by Tony Millionaire. Some people dig it and some people don't, but I think it's one of the best strips being drawn today. "Damn! I could have saved $1.19 on the cereal if I had gone to the other store . . . ."

THE BLACK FOREST by Todd Livingston, Robert Tinnell, and Neil Vokes. It's a neat concept--in World War I, the Germans employ Universal-style monsters to fight for them. I'm nerdy enough to want to read more, and I was hearing things like "Skip Van Helsing and read the Black Forest," so I did. But I was treated to such captions as, "The gas. And when the gas comes . . . nothing can survive it. Nothing . . . unless it's already DEAD." The rest of the book seems to be made up of one-liners and gypsies with big boobs, Germans with scars running down their faces, and artwork that is passable but not fantastic.

THE UNTOUCHABLE by John Banville. I bought it for a book group and I haven't, um, touched it yet. You'll be the first to know when I do.

DAVID COPPERFIELD by Charles Dickens. Still working on this one--it's another massive tome--but it's effing fantastic. Some of the characters weave in and out of the story and some are only there for a page or two, but each one has a distinct voice and personality. It's funny and it's moving and Dickens has managed to keep me interested in David as he grew from a boy to a young man--it was my silent fear that I wouldn't like the adult David as much. The next time I see Meredith, we're going to fist-fight over Dickens.

LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI by Mark Twain. This one was derailed when I picked up SOLACE, but mostly I wanted to race through it so I could re-read HUCK FINN. It's interesting, but I like Twain better when I'm not sure whether I can believe him or not. I probably just haven't read enough of it yet.

HAIRSTYLES OF THE DAMNED by Joe Meno. I read a 20-page preview, but it seems really neat. It's about young punks on Chicago's south side in the early 80's and Joe writes kid-dialogue really well. The Story Workshop-method "How To" on hair dye was a little jarring, as it seems a little formulaic to me after taking classes at Columbia, but it's counter-balanced by the inclusion of a mix-tape cover and the chapters printed in a hand-written font, taken directly from characters' journals. I'm taking a class with Joe this fall and it's a relief that I like the work of the dude who's going to be schooling me.

Oh, boy. I think that sums it up--a new BELIEVER came in the mail a few weeks back with a wicked cd inside, but I don't think that counts. I'm off to the comic book shop today for our nation's Free Comic Book Day, but I don't know of anything that's come out recently that I'll want to pick up in trade. I still haven't picked up LOUIS RIEL, PALOMAR, the first PEANUTS collection, half a dozen other things I was waiting for in trade, but today it's all about the free stuff. I'll report back on more books in a month or so.

Don't ever change!