Friday, December 31, 2004


It seems like I've been reading Young Men Coming of Age stories for my entire life, and particularly recently. Does anyone know of any good Young Women Coming of Age stories? Books, comics, short stories, etc.

Entering the Horseshoe Cafe

I slowed my pace and frowned and considered. I love the air in autumn, even still, and especially at Monument Circle on my lunch break. It just smells . . . orange, if that makes sense to you. Like fall. And fall (and orange) tastes like pumpkin pie. Why, why pumpkin pie! I wanted a piece of pumpkin pie, I wanted it right then, and more than anything else in the whole wide world! I looked around the Circle for where I might buy a piece of pie, like a pie stand, or, or wherever they sold pie from. My god, where did they sell pie from? I don’t know that I’d ever bought pie somewhere before. I was never much of a dessert man, truth be told, and when I was I almost always, without fail, opted for the tiramisu. My eyes spied a sign, one with flashing red and yellow bulbs, right across the Circle, almost 180 degrees from Bagel Hut, and the sign read Horseshoe-flash-Café-flash-Horseshoe-flash-Café-flash. Horseshoe Café! It had big windows and booths, and even a counter, if my eyes didn’t lie. Even from across the Circle I could tell that this, this was a real diner, the kind you might see on the television, the kind that might, in the fall, serve pumpkin pie.

I pushed the door opened and a bell jingled, a bell tied to the corner of the door with a shoestring. It was a new shoestring, white and fresh and straight from the package. The floor of the diner was linoleum and the tables were too, and the seats in the booths were padded and puffy. The stools at the counter were padded and puffy and everything, the stools and the counter and the tables and the seats and the floor and the walls, they were speckled gray over their own colors of white or green or red. A metallic silver something surrounded everything, and the whole place glowed with the residue of a powerful cleanser. There were a few men occupying the booths, burly and unshaven and of the construction worker variety. They wore mesh caps that said things like “Boone Construction Co.” and “Harvey’s Heavy Lifting,” and then had a picture of a crane. It was quaint and folksy and somewhere, meat was sizzling.

I sidled up to the counter and had a seat, a smile on my face. The most radiant vision of beauty approached from behind the counter. Her nametag read Carol.

Thursday, December 30, 2004


Flush with gift certificates and xmas cash, I took a trip to my local video distributor and comic book shop, respectively, this week. Just in case you were wondering what to read, watch, and why:

THE OFFICE SPECIAL: 90 minutes and a few extras, wrapping up most of the loose-ends from Series Two. It's one of those things I'm sorry to see end, but all the same, it has the best ending I could have hoped for. It's TV done right, folks.

JLA CLASSIFIED 1&2 by Grant Morrison and Ed McGuinness: Nearly 10 years ago (egads!) Grant Morrison helped start a trend in superhero comics that is only now quieting down, and in the first two parts of this three-part story he's returning to the JLA for a spell. I liked issue one a lot, introducing menacing villains and lots of supporting characters that I don't know but get the gist of all the same; issue two felt a little flat, however, as if it was simply taking 20-odd pages to make sure I understood all that happened in the last issue. I'll definitely pick up the next issue to see how it all turns out, but I'm grateful that this is only a brief return for Grant. I'd rather see him do new things, like We3 and the upcoming Seven Soldiers project for DC.

CONCRETE: THE HUMAN DILEMMA 1 by Paul Chadwick. I was surprised to see this one out. I haven't kept up on Previews in a long time, and it seems like it's been a good five years since the last CONCRETE series. I picked it up, but I wasn't sure what to expect after all that time--if the series would still hold up, or if I'd still be interested in it. There were a few neat tricks--the x-ray shot into Larry's brain on page 7 was neat--but mostly it feels like Paul and the character are revisiting themes that have already been covered. THINK LIKE A MOUNTAIN seemed to move the character in a new direction and STRANGE ARMOR was a way to re-examine the character's beginnings through that new lens, but one issue in to this six-part series, THE HUMAN DILEMMA feels like a step backwards. But I'm interested enough to see how it pans out. I thought it was interesting that the cover is signed "Paul Chadwick '01."

THE SHAOLIN COWBOY 1 by Geoff Darrow. Also a surprise--I had no idea Darrow had a new project coming out, and I don't even remember his last one. I've also never heard of "Burlyman Entertainment," but the inside cover says it's a Wachowski Brothers venture. The plot feeds off of cliched characters I feel like I've seen a thousand times, but Darrow's art is intricate and itriguing. I especially like the ten-page panel in the middle of the book, and the lizard's movement across panels in the beginning. If it survies to issue 2, I'll pick it up again.

QUIT CITY by Warren Ellis and Laurenn McCubbin. This is the only title from Ellis's Apparat project that I picked up--though I love Carla Speed McNeil, the artist on FRANK IRONWINE, it looked like the sort of character and story I've seen from Ellis before. QUIT CITY did too, but I don't have as much work from McCubbin as I do from McNeil on my bookshelf. McCubbin's faces are strange, beautiful and familiar--almost distractingly so, but I was alright with that, considering the plot was nothing new from Ellis. I wonder if he's more interested in packaging than story these days, and if he'd just be happier as an editor/publisher than a writer. That way he could wonder and experiment with form and format all day, and let other folks craft the stories that utilized them. He's been dipping his toes in a lot of different pools since TRANSMET ended, and with the exception of the soon-to-conclude PLANETARY (which, admittedly, is a holdover from the project he started while TRANSMET was still alive), none of them have really flipped my skirt. That said, it's well worth the price for McCubbin's work. That said:

OCEAN 1&2 by Warren Ellis and Chris Sprouse. Much of the above applies here; it looks wonderful, blue and big, but Ellis isn't doing anything he hasn't done before. His main character here has appeared other places, in other forms, many times before. I don't mind reading Morrison tread on old ground in JLA CLASSIFIED because he's doing We3 at the same time; with Ellis, I don't see that same kind of newness and boundary-pushing.

BELLY BUTTON COMIX #2 by Sophie. I haven't read all of this one yet--I flipped through it and got caught up in two pages of a longer story about a guy and gal meeting on a train (or bus, perhaps), looking at each others' sketch books, and going home to sleep together. I wanted to see how it ended, so I picked it up. Artistically, it has a polished-Jeffrey Brown kind of feel to it, from the two pages I saw, at least.

DIRTY FOUND #1. I love FOUND magazine, and this is a special issue with "the KINKIEST, RAUNCHIEST submissions to've been passed to your friends at FOUND." Dirty emails, dirty photographs, dirty drawings, dirty love notes, and best of all, stories of where and how they were discovered. If you like peeking into other people's sock drawers, and by god I know that you do, go find you some Dirty Found.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

If I May:

My Grandma died on Xmas Eve. The family was over for dinner and gift exchanging. The clearest memory I have of Grandma isn't about her directly, but the painting of Jesus she had hanging in her old blue house. It's hanging in her new white house too, I imagine, but it's in the blue one where I remember it. That white house was never a Grandma sort of place, to me, even though I'm sure she liked it a lot better than the blue one.

That painting was the first exposure I had to Jesus, as a man or a force or whatever he might be to you. I asked my mom (because I was a shy kid, and had a hard time asking things of grown-ups who weren't my parents) if that person in the painting was Grandpa as a young man. She said he wasn't. I asked if he was a relative. She said he wasn't. So, I asked, why did Grandma have a painting of some dude in her living room?

I don't remember how the conversation went. I don't have kids, so I don't know how that conversation works at all, but I imagine it's a weird one. Grown-ups are busy most of the time informing kids as to how things work--logical outcomes and methods of reasoning. If it's raining outside, and you go outside, you get wet. If the stove is hot, and you touch the stove, you get burned. And then they have to explain abstract concepts like faith and supernatural ones like men with beards raising from the dead. When things like that happen in the movies and it freaks us, as kids, out, our folks tell us it's just a movie. But that guy in the painting, he did it for real. But, er, no one else can do it. Ever. Well, my own prejudice is leaking through here, and this is supposed to be about something else.

I have fluctuating opinions about death. Logically, on days when I'm feeling logical, I suppose that nothing happens at all. Hopefully, on days when I'm feeling hopeful, I suppose that there are things in the universe I'm not quite capable of understanding, in which case something might happen after all.

On this trip to Ohio I read a book called American Skin by Don De Grazia. In the book, Alex Verdi explains about babies. I'll paraphrase.

You know babies? You know how we're told, that when babies are babies, and their mother or father or anyone else leaves the room, the baby is incapable of reasoning that they'll come back. The baby figures they can't see them, so they don't exist anymore. Alex Verdi, in the book, explains death as being like that. It's like (and this is me, further opining) when adults leave the kids alone to go do adult-things. The kids don't yet have the capacity to understand what they adults are doing. Grandma is like that now, maybe. She's gone, but only in the sense that the rest of us left don't quite understand what she's up to. But eventually we'll figure it out, and we'll trust that those left will figure it out in time, too. It's no use explaining to the kids left in the nursery, because they just have the tools to understand it yet.

I wonder what will happen to that picture of Jesus. I hope it doesn't end up sad and lonely in some yard sale. I know, in my head, that it doesn't matter what happens to that picture of Jesus, that it's not Grandma's concern anymore, and that letting it go back into the stream of people will allow it to alter more lives the way it altered mine, by bringing Jesus up in the first place. But all the same, I hope that Jesus finds a good home.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Double Are Dee

After a spirited discussion at the Loft at Kensington:

We got our serious Double Are Dee Bowl on.

And then Betsy found True Love.

Happy Xmas, you two!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Outlaw Chess

Mr Fischer has been on the run from the US authorities for more than a decade, after being accused of breaking international sanctions by visiting Yugoslavia to take part in a chess match in 1992.

A brilliant but mercurial player, Mr Fischer became a grandmaster at 15 and shot to fame in 1972 when he beat Boris Spassky of the then Soviet Union.

He held the title of world chess champion until 1975, and resurfaced in Yugoslavia for the dramatic 1992 rematch against Mr Spassky.

He won the game, but disappeared when the US authorities announced they wanted to prosecute him over the $3m he earned for playing, which Washington said violated US and United Nations bans on doing business in the country.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Pentagon Memos and Mo'

From the Pentagon's Defense Science Board:

Opinion surveys conducted by Zogby International, the Pew Research Center, Gallup (CNN/USA Today), and the Department of State (INR) reveal widespread animosity toward the United States and its policies. A year and a half after going to war in Iraq, Arab/Muslim anger has intensified. Data from Zogby International in July 2004, for example, show that the U.S. is viewed unfavorably by overwhelming majorities in Egypt (98 percent), Saudi Arabia (94 percent), Morocco (88 percent), and Jordan (78 percent). The war has increased mistrust of America in Europe, weakened support for the war on terrorism, and undermined U.S. credibility worldwide. Media commentary is consistent with polling data. In a State Department (INR) survey of editorials and op-eds in 72 countries, 82.5% of commentaries were negative, 17.5% positive.

. . .

We call it a war on terrorism, but Muslims in contrast see a history-shaking movement of Islamic restoration. This is not simply a religious revival, however, but also a renewal of the Muslim World itself. And it has taken form through many variant movements, both moderate and militant, with many millions of adherents, of which radical fighters are only a small part. Moreover, these movements for restoration also represent, in their variant visions, the reality of multiple identities within Islam.

If there is one overarching goal they share, it is the overthrow of what Islamists call the "apostate" regimes: the tyrannies of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, and the Gulf states. They are the main target of the broader Islamist movement, as well as the actual fighter groups. The United States finds itself in the strategically awkward -- and potentially dangerous -- situation of being the longstanding prop and alliance partner of these authoritarian regimes. Without the U.S. these regimes could not survive. Thus the U.S. has strongly taken sides in a desperate struggle that is both broadly cast for all Muslims and country-specific.

This is the larger strategic context, and it is acutely uncomfortable: U.S. policies and actions are increasingly seen by the overwhelming majority of Muslims as a threat to the survival of Islam itself.

. . .

There's even more at DailyKos, including continued coverage of DEAN'S growing bid for DNC Chair.


When you order a hog in my neighborhood, this is how they bring it to you:

Parody Comics Seized by Customs

Grabbed this from the Beat:

U.S. Government Seizes Parody Comics At Customs

On October 27, U.S. Customs sent a letter to Top Shelf Productions notifying them that copies of the anthology Stripburger had been seized, charging that the stories "Richie Bush" by Peter Kuper and "Moj Stub" (translated, "My Pole") by Bojan Redzic constituted "clearly piratical copies" of registered and recorded copyrights. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has retained counsel to challenge these seizures.

"Richie Bush," appearing in Stripburger (Vol. 12) #37, is a four-page parody of Richie Rich that also satirizes the Bush Administration by superimposing the personalities of the President's cabinet on the characters from the comic. "My Pole," appearing in Stripburger (Vol. 3) # 4-5, which was published in 1994, is an eight-page ecology parable in Slovenian that makes visual homage to Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Woodstock in three panels. Customs seized five copies of the issue with the Peanuts reference and fourteen copies of the issue containing "Richie Bush." The stories were both published in the middle of their respective issues and no graphics from either story appeared on the covers.

Top Shelf is the American agent for Stripburger, an Eastern European comics publisher that releases anthologies of comics from cartoonists around the globe. The comics that were seized were sent along as an extra in a shipment of The Miniburger Dirty Dozen, a boxed set of mini comics that Top Shelf imported to offer in the Direct Market and at conventions. Top Shelf did not order the seized issues of the anthology.

Upon investigating the shipment, Customs released the copies of Miniburger, but held the issues of Stripburger, giving Top Shelf thirty days to either forfeit the shipment, request administrative relief, or initiate court action.

At the urging of Stripburger, Top Shelf and CBLDF President Chris Staros brought the case to the attention of the Fund as a potential news story. CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein felt the matter warranted serious legal attention, so it was sent to Burton Joseph, the Fund's legal counsel, whose opinion was that Customs was unlawfully holding First Amendment protected speech. The option of pursuing court action on First Amendment grounds was then taken to the CBLDF Board of Directors, which unanimously voted 8-0 to take up the case; Chris Staros recused himself from the vote.

On November 24, the Fund retained counsel in Charleston, SC who hand-delivered a letter to Customs stating that the comics are protected under existing First Amendment case law and should be either immediately released or that court action should be initiated.
"In this case, it looks like Customs is overreaching its authority," Staros says. "The comics in question are clearly within the acceptable bounds of parody, and there is absolutely no likelihood that consumers would confuse these works with the subjects that they are parodying."

Brownstein stated, "The stories that were seized are short segments within larger anthologies that in no way represented the content as anything other than what it is. The charge that these are piratical copies of existing copyrights is not only wrong-headed, but the seizure amounts to an unlawful prior restraint of protected speech. It is our hope that Customs will recognize that they have acted in error in seizing these stories and release them immediately. If not, we are prepared to go to court to protect the First Amendment rights that are endangered by this misguided action."

Saturday, December 04, 2004

First Amend-what?

This story has been making the blog-rounds the past few days, but in case it's been missed:

MONTGOMERY - An Alabama lawmaker who sought to ban gay marriages now wants to ban novels with gay characters from public libraries, including university libraries.

A bill by Rep. Gerald Allen, R-Cottondale, would prohibit the use of public funds for "the purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle." Allen said he filed the bill to protect children from the "homosexual agenda."

Allen said that if his bill passes, novels with gay protagonists and college textbooks that suggest homosexuality is natural would have to be removed from library shelves and destroyed.

"I guess we dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them," he said.

. . .

The fella also proposed legislation banning gay marriage in Alabama, but it wasn't approved. I don't imagine this will be either, but all the same, it's best not to let this sort of thing be ignored. Michael Schaub at Bookslut is goodly enough to offer Rep. Allen's phone number, so do give him a call at (205) 556-5310 to express your thoughts on this.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Speaking of help . . .

Does anyone know of any good politically-minded blogs? I used to be on the Atrios bandwagon, but in the months directly prior to the election, he kind of lost me. Now he seems to spend a lot of time blogging about his cats. I kind of like DailyKos, because at least he's covering the DEAN/Democratic Party stuff. If anyone has any ideas, holla.

Word Searches?

My pal AnnieD is getting a cyborg leg in a few weeks. She sends out the following appeal:

"My people:

I am getting ready to hunker down for three weeks or so and learn how to walk again. Yes, that's right--AnnieD is finally getting her funny leg fixed on December 17, and I'm going to be bored to tears for about 65% of the time. Oh, there's grad school applications to complete, methamphetamine to manufacture, and that whole zine thing that still needs to get done--but then what? Huh? All I can tell you is that the last time I was incapacitated I became terribly addicted to an online, type-fast-as-you-can word-search game where I befriended the nation's unemployed and developed carpal tunnel syndrome. And I played--no lie--9,991 games. (They're *only* 30-seconds um.)

Not this time.

This time I am armed with a Netflix account and a library within close proximity. I will limp past the beguiling ways of the Internet and fulfill my destiny to become a couch potato. You can help. Please email me and tell me what great movies/great books you've watched/read lately, so I can add them to my to-do list. If nothing comes to mind, then tell me your favorites. Or both! If you can provide neither, please send me some money.

Thank you, and goodbye."

If you have any recommendations, do post them in the comments.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Potatoes of the Sun

There was a pounding in my ears, my heart or his feet and I couldn’t tell which. Both, maybe, or something else entirely. I ran down the hill, and I don’t know why, because I didn’t know where else to go to, I guess. I ran down the hill, taking smaller steps than I had going up it, trying to keep my legs ahead of the rest of my body. I heard a pounding in my ears, my heart or his feet.

It was dark out, closer to the next morning than last night. The grass was slick and I slipped in my shoes and fell back, both feet in the air, one foot up higher than the other, one arm up above me, the other behind to catch my fall. I landed on my butt, and then on my right hand, and I felt a sharp pain in my wrist. I got up immediately, not looking behind me and not even hearing. I got up immediately and I ran again and I slipped again and I fell again, this time forward, both hands held out before me. I landed on both hands, a sharp in my right wrist again, and then my palms slipped out from under me and I landed on my stomach. I bent my knees and raised up my legs, ready to kick myself forward and further down the hill, thinking now that I could hide in the ditch maybe, in the dry creek bed. Before I could kick off and further away, a hand grabbed my foot and pulled me back down to Earth. I twisted my head around and saw that devil, that mask, that man from the woods. I couldn’t see his eyeballs in the mask; in their place there were two black buckets of night surrounded by red devil. The face was rubber and expressionless and I panicked. His hand was gripped tightly on my calf and he was laying stomach-down on the hill, just like me, and I don’t know if he threw himself at me or if he had been crawling after me like a worm, like a snake, like a thousand-legger with feelers instead of eyes. I kicked at his devil-face with my free foot, but he clamped it down with his free hand (or claw, I don’t know) and he crawled forward, pinning my legs beneath his chest. He reached his hands forward, pulling himself up and over my body. His body was hot and heavy on top of me. I wriggled, tried to get out from under him, and his hands found my arms and were bigger than my arms and pinned them down. I kept wriggling and got an arm loose, reached forward and dug my fingers into the dirt, pulled myself forward before he crushed my arm under his hand again, but that let me wriggle my other hand free and I pulled forward some more, but he just kept pulling himself along with me like we were one multi-limbed, gibbering, wriggling thing.

I called out. I yelled, out loud, and I don’t know what I said. It felt like my voice, and it might have just been this wordless noise, it felt like my voice was trapped and sucked in by the gravity of his body, he was a black hole that nothing could escape. I could hear sounds through his mask, sounds like grunting, and I felt something against the back of my leg, something like I don’t want to say, something he pushed against me again and again and I screamed again and maybe I screamed for help.

He pinned my hands down with his hands and my legs down with his legs and only my head and face were off the ground, but I could feel something sharp against the top of my head, his chin pushing me down, but I resisted it and held my head up as best I could. I yelled but I couldn’t hear it, I could only hear him, could only hear him grunting and laughing and feel that thing against the back of my leg. The rest of me went still because I didn’t like it when I wriggled against him, I didn’t like it when he pressed harder against me the more I moved.

He suddenly yelled in surprise and jerked his body upward. He was still and he seemed to be looking and listening, he was not making sounds. I jerked again, and then a third time, and before the fourth time I could hear the air parting and space splitting apart, I heard the smack of something into his side and he lurched himself off of me. I laid flat on the grass and the man stood up and was struck again, I heard him being hit by something again and again, thump-thump-thwak, and I turned my head to see him and saw the small dark shapes striking him and bouncing off of him and hitting the ground at his feet. I saw Jesus somewhere behind me, winding up with his hands held tightly to his chest, one knee in the air, standing on one foot, dressed in a white robe and a baseball cap, a red one for the Cincinnati Reds. I saw an “01” stitched onto the back of his robe and I saw Jesus let loose a knuckleball that caught fire as it left his mitt, blazed through the sky, and struck this man from the woods square in the chest. The man ran, disappearing down the hill and into the woods, behind a bustle and thustle of sticks on the ground and red and orange leaves.

I raised myself up and saw potatoes on the ground around me, potatoes on the ground where the man had been. I sat up and looked up the hill and saw my friends, saw Shaun and Jerry and Face, potatoes of salvation in their hands even still, and I swear to god, but the sun was rising, red and orange and streaming behind them. It rose behind my friends and behind the hill and behind the trailer where Shaun’s parents still slept. Potatoes of the sun, driving the devil back into the dark.