Saturday, December 30, 2006

True Facts I Learned in Ohio This Xmas

1. As a youth, my dad was a library aid. Also, he wanted to be a history teacher.

2. Pa used to be a trucker part-time. He’d make short runs during the day, getting back by late afternoon or by nightfall. Then he’d do the farming, sometimes until dawn.

3. Ma met Pa through Uncle Nick, who told Pa he “knew a good woman.” Ma worked in a doctor’s office at the time, and took a shift over at the nursing home to help out a friend. She hated it and said she’d never go back. She’s worked there for thirty years.

4. Pa’s first wife ran out on him for a man who ran a farm equipment business. Pa’s mother moved back to the farm to help him keep house and raise Sheryl and Leslie-Marie. Pa had a heart and the word Mother tattooed on his arm, and once I was born and his mom was dead, Mother was what he called Ma.

5. One of the stipulations Ma had for moving in with Pa really was indoor plumbing – Pa had no bathroom or running water indoors. Ma had the day off from work and they’d planned to go shopping for bathroom fixtures, but when she pulled into the driveway she saw a giant, new, bright blue hay baler. She figured she’d have to wait a long time for that bathroom, and she did. She still moved in, though.

6. My brother met his wife when he was a sophomore in high school. His daughter is almost 17 now.

7. There once was a murder. My mom has many distant cousins, and this is a story she heard from a close one: their cousin Phil was a farmer and he moonlighted working construction. He had two guys who worked for him regular, and Phil paid them out of pocket. They came around one night as Phil was getting home and caught him getting out of his truck. They wanted more money for a recent job, but Phil said he didn’t have any to give them. They insisted, and Phil said he still didn’t have it. One of them cut his throat with a knife, then stabbed him until he was dead.
The two men went into the house where Phil’s wife was making supper. She hadn’t heard the commotion outside, so when they walked in she told them that Phil wasn’t home yet but they could stay and wait for him and eat. They said okay and ate supper with Phil’s wife. After supper they stabbed her too, but she got away and ran into the bathroom. She locked the locked the door and they couldn’t get in, so she sat on the floor and bled to death by morning.

The men went into the bedroom of their teenage son, tied his hands behind his back, and strangled and stabbed him until he was dead. They went into the bedroom of their five-year-old adopted daughter, but they left her there sleeping. She’d slept through the whole thing.

In the morning the boy’s friend arrived to take him to school. He honked his horn, but the girl came out. She said the boy was sick, that she couldn’t wake him up and there was blood on the bed. He went inside and found the boy and called the police. When the police came they found Phil in his car and Phil’s wife in the bathroom, and later they arrested the men.

My mom’s cousin heard this story after getting a job at a bank and getting to know one of her co-workers – the little grown, grown to an adult. My mom’s cousin went home and told the story to her husband, and her husband said, “Melva, we’re related to them.”

When my mom’s mom died, my mom inherited the scrapbook of her mom’s mom. Included were two newspaper clippings, reporting the murder and the murderers’ arrests, and also a clipping about the wedding of Wayne Newton. We are not related to him.

8. Pickles, stored properly, will never go bad.


I always thought so.

You are Spider-Man

The Flash
Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
Iron Man
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Smelvin Belvin

Belvin's face was waiting for old age. He was in our grade, so he was the same age as us, I guess. He wore the same t-shirts as us and rode the bus and took tests and everything. But it was his face - it didn't look right. It looked like it was waiting for wrinkles. He walked with a stoop, his eyes were sunken in, and he talked with a quiver.

Belvin wasn't in any clubs, didn't play any sports. He got out of class in the afternoons to help the janitor. The janitor had jowels and big droopy lips and when he talked it was hard to understand. Local legend said he was missing a toe from the mythical snapping turtle that lived in the pond between our grade school and the high school. In the afternoons, after lunch, you could see him walking past the doors of the classrooms with Belvin behind him, pushing a pushbroom or carrying big bags of trash. Belvin would come back to class shortly before the afternoon bell, smelling of garbage or cleansers. This gave him the name Smelvin Belvin. He told us to shut up, and argued that he didn't smell, but that's a hard thing to contest. It was truth, not just a rumor.

Rumor was Skylar, the girl famous at our school for losing a frozen hot dog inside of her while masturbating. Rumor was Doug, suspended mysteriously and said to have been caught having sex with an outdoor water faucet. Truth was this: Smelvin Belvin stank like trash.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Weaver Rd.

(This comes from a writing exercise my pal Laura and her pal Suzanne made up, basted on the short story "Nettles" by Alice Munro)

In the summer of 1984 I remember my brother driving a tractor, a loader, a combine. The tractor was white with mighty orange tires taller than a man. It looked exactly like a die-cast toy tractor my brother had in his bedroom. The loader was rusty yellow, driven by shifting black knobs, and it had treads like a tank. The combine was a monster, giant and red with a black MF logo on the side, for Massey-Ferguson, and vicious, whirling blades in the front. The small cab was up top, fifteen feet above the ground, with a radio inside but no air conditioning. Just an old fan, round and rusty.

Years later my grandfather, who owned and worked the farm, had a stroke. He leased the fields to another farmer to plant and plow and my job, as a teenager, was to sit with him at night and watch TV until he fell asleep. He was scared to be alone after his stroke, he couldn't walk very well and he couldn't swallow his saliva. He sat with a crescent moon-shaped plastic cup on his chest to collect the spit that dribbled from his chin. The barn was empty of his equipment, the tractor, the loader and the combine.

In Ohio where I lived as a kid I wanted to learn how to drive those machines. They were terrifying, loud, rusty and dirty, but they were what men worked with. At thirteen, fourteen or fifteen, you learned to drive them and worked the farm, wore your blue jeans tight with a fat, square wallet in your back pocket, wore a mesh cap with tractor logos and pins on it, washed your hands before supper with frothy, industrial soap because they were black from oil and grime in the shop. There was always something to fix or build. The pick-up, the dump truck, the loader or both tractors, the bushhog, the Massey, the air pump. Some animal had died in the silo and someone small and skinny had to crawl in and get it. Pa had a semi truck trailer in his backyard filled with spare parts of cars, machines and motorbikes. It was black in the trailer, and hot. He had been a truck driver once, he had driven a motorcycle. There is a picture of him on his bike in a leather jacket, black hair slicked back, a golden hoop in his ear before that was done by anyone you'd feel comfortable sitting across the table from. This was before he'd met my grandma, when he had a different family. He was not my grandpa by blood. He had tattoos on his forearms of a naked woman and a hula girl in a skirt, and on his bicep a heart that said Mother. In the morning, when he woke up, he never a shirt before breakfast.

Monday, October 09, 2006

And it's right behind the nose.

Once upon a time I had a friend who told me, in a car, that PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE was the perfect example of a movie she wanted to make. It made me laugh, but I liked it, because it's one of my favorite movies, and she was one of my strangest and fondest friends.

I saw THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP tonight and I thought, for one thing, there were at least two of my friends, or their archetypes, in the movie - one was the lady who wanted to make PUNCH-DRUNK - and for another, this, THIS was the perfect example of a movie I wanted to make.

It's sweet, but with a realistic rhythm. Also there are cardboard cars.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Barf Poop!

Riding my bike here today I had an imaginary conversation, because I often do when I’m on my bike, because I’m afraid to wear headphones and I don’t even have any anymore anyway. I said, “No, my girlfriend couldn’t make it today. She’s taking our* cat to the vet.”

“Oh? How come?”

“Liver disease.”


And then, to alleviate the bummerhood of liver disease, I say this:

“She’s been staying in the bathroom since she started feeling sick. It’s gotten pretty gross in there. She peed in there today, in the corner, like under or next to the water dish. That’s my fault, because she’s still well enough to use the box, but when I leave wet food on the floor I shut the door so the other cats can’t get to it, but then she can’t get to the box. So, aside from cat puke and messy cat food there’s also cat pee. It’s so disgusting we** renamed it Grosstown, California. We put up a sign***. It has its own zip code, even.”

“What is it?”

“The zip code?”


First attempt:

“0 – 0 – 0 – 0 – Poop.”

Second attempt:

“9 – 4 – 6 – 0 – Poop.”

Third attempt:

“9 – 4 – 6 – Barf – Poop.”

And then I wrote this song:

9 – 4 – 6 – Barf – Poop
You know what to do
9 – 4 – 6 – Barf – Poop
It’s the zip code of my bathroom!
9 – 4 – 6 – Barf – Poop
There’s cat pee there too
9 – 4 – 6 – Barf – Poop
Bein’ there gets me blue
Ohhhh, I don’t wanna take a shower there
Cause I get cat crumbs on my feet in there
There’s also a lot of cat hair in there
I useta-useta like to read in there
(Bring the beat back!)
9 – 4 – 6 – Barf – Poop
You know what to do. . . .

*My cat? Lola is six and mostly mean to everyone else, but she and Amy have gotten along great since the move.

**I did this alone.

***Not true.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hey! The State is back!

I spent many, many half-hours in high school watching the State on MTV. They put up a new skit to promote their first season being available on iTunes.

Go watch it!

It's (late) Wednesday . . . that means graphic novel news!

ITEM! Little Brown goes graphic!

Rich Johnson, formerly in charge of DC's book trade business (DC being the home of Superman and Batman, and a division of Time-Warner) has been hired by Hachette Book Group USA to start up a graphic novel imprint at Little/Brown. According to Publisher's Weekly, Little/Brown, "has been looking for a creative way to be part of this exciting category," and Johnson "has been hired as a consultant to look into acquiring titles in a number of categories under the graphic umbrella including licensed manga, original manga, original American comics and graphic novels, webcomics, licensed adaptations and children's graphic novels."

I think that covers absolutely everything except for nurse mystery novels. So, hey - more comics! From Little/Brown!

Tell me more:

ITEM! Cartoon Network helps sell BLEACH

BLEACH, the anime series, debuted on the Cartoon Network on September 9th, and according to the BookScan numbers for the week ending September 17th - the first volume of BLEACH, the graphic novel, originally released in the US in June 2004 is suddenly at #7 on the list of graphic novels sold in bookstores. Vol. 2 rocketed to #20, continuing what some folks call "the Cartoon Network effect," first seen with NARUTO. There are now seven volumes of BLEACH in the BookScan top 50, with fourteen volumes total in the series.

All eleven volumes of NARUTO continue to live in the BookScan top 20, and only 8 of the top 50 titles were non-manga.

Tell me more:

ITEM! Marvel Super-Heroes Head to the Web

Marvel Comics announced this week that Cryptic Sudios, creators of the Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (that's MMORG to nerds) CITY OF HEROES will develop MARVEL UNIVERSE ONLINE.

Sez Marvel: "The mechanics of the new Marvel MMORG will differ substantially from those of City of Heroes where players basically build their own superheroes. The Marvel game will center around the heroes of the Marvel universe and will feature custom art and character designs created especially for the game."

I do not know what all of this means. Will there be multiple Spideys running around for players to play? Customizable Hulks? Hard to say, but when asked if the new character renditions will lead to new licensing streams, Marvel responded, "It's not out of the realm of possibility that this will influence other areas of our business."

Tell me more:

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Empire Strikes BAck

OBI-WAN: That boy is our last hope.

YODA: No. There is another.

See, what this tells me is - in Episode III, Mrs. Vader should have given birth to Luke, Luke should have been passed on to Ben, and Ben should have been ushered off to the desert - therefore, Mrs. Vader's final fate (and Leia's birth) would remain a mystery to the unfortunate viewers who may someday watch Star Wars sequentially, from the Phantom Menace through to Return of the Jedi.

"And that is why your sister remains safely anonymous."

Monday, September 18, 2006

I have driven way lots.

create your own personalized map of the USA
or check out ourCalifornia travel guide

I did this two years ago (it's right here), and this is an update of all of the states I've visited, not counting those flown through. I'm doing way better these days!

You can your own map by visiting their site.

I caught one.

I went fishing once with James and his uncle, standing in the stream of some little river, leading into a lake with a name I don't know that I ever knew. James and his uncle picked out a prime spot to fish, where they stood on the bank and cast and recast. I stood twenty, thirty feet away, happily casting, recasting, not catching anything. I didn't WANT to catch anything. The fish we were fishing for - blue gill? - were white with stripey flecks of orange and blue. They were slimey, wet, scaley . . . they breathed and undulated, flopped in the air where they didn't belong.

There was ONE I caught, that fell off my hook, that I flipped and flicked and tried not to touch as I released it back into the water - we were catching and releasing, I was glad but didn't know why - and I wanted to flick it back with my foot, but it was so small, no longer than my own hand, thin like a quarter, I was afraid my shoe would destroy it. I managed to get back in the water and swam away, despite a nasty hole in its face from my hook. I hadn't wanted to catch a thing, but was glad I did. I'd caught one, so I could say that much. I didn't have to answer "nothing" regarding how I did, what I caught. I CAUGHT one. I caught ONE.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It's Wednesday, that means Graphic Novel News!

The "It's Only 5:30 For Me" Edition

ITEM! Manga round-up - and NARUTO is where it's at! Volume 11 was released this month and in its first full week on the shelves it has sold more copies in a seven day period than any other graphic novel this year. In fact, if we look at the Bookscan numbers for the week ending August 27th, we can see how NARUTO continues to dominate:

1. Naruto vol. 11 (Viz Media)
2. The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptaion (Hill and Wang)
3. Fruits Basket vol. 14 (Tokyopop)
4. Death Note vol. 7 (Viz Media)
5. Naruto vol. 10 (Viz Media)
6. Naruto vol. 1 (Viz Media)
7. Black Cat vol. 4 (Viz Media)
8. HALO (Marvel Comics)
9. Fullmetal Alchemist vol. 9 (Viz Media)
10. Naruto vol. 2 (Viz Media)

So, only two non-manga titles - and one is a video game tie-in and the other is an historical singularity. Also, Viz takes up 3 of the top 10 slots - but it's worth pointing out that DEATH NOTE, BLACK CAT, and FRUITS BASKET don't have a heavy animated presence in the US at all - FRUITS BASKET is available on DVD, while the other two can't be found on US airwaves at all. What they DO have in common is that DEATH NOTE and BLACK CAT were both serialized in the US magazine SHONEN JUMP before being published in trades. So, there's still something to be said for serialization before being collected and sold in the bookstores - just not in the traditional comic book store format the US is used to. HALO, the only Marvel Comics entry anywhere near the top 10, wasn't serialized at all before its release.

Tell me more:

ITEM! Along with the redesign of its website, TokyoPop is selling some of its newer and lower selling titles exclusively through its website - angering a few vocal retailers. TokyoPop defends it has an attempt to give special attention to titles that are, quite simply, getting lost on the ever-expanding manga shelves. Retailers (the independent bookstore types, not the chains) are calling it a betrayal of some of TokyoPop's most ardent supporters - some even saying they'll be hesitant to order new TokyoPop series, for fear that TP will simply yank them from the shelves at a later date.

TP has defended their position, saying that they've always been open to experimenting and finding new ways to reach their audience. Some retailers, talking to Publisher's Weekly, said that they never like it when publisher sell directly to their audience, and that the retailers will "remember it at order time." It strikes THIS reporter as a case of TokyoPop preferring to take the merchandising of certain books into its own hands - and the retailers feel a little stung.

Meanwhile, the new TokyoPop site itself looks pretty sharp. I checked out the blogs today and the first thing I saw was a fan gushing about VAMPIRE HUNTER D, a non TP title. Maybe not good for TP's sales, but they're definitely building a community of manga lovers.

Tell me more:

Thursday, March 30, 2006

It might be a crackhead.

Dear lord . . . leprechauns in Alabama. There are so many bizarre things about this video, I don't know where to start.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why, Garfield, Why?!

I have a cold and my throat is sore and when I laugh really hard it sounds high pitched like the Joker. Also, it turns out that when you take out Garfield's thought balloons it becomes a strip about a lonely dude who talks to himself:

Sometimes he yells at them.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Mostly About Valentine Victorious

So! I saw this play the other night and it was really good.

It's called Valentine Victorious, written by Nathan Allen and directed by Dennis Watkins, and it was put on by the House Theatre of Chicago. It's the third part of the Valentine Trilogy, a series of plays telling one story over three genres. This last part was a superhero tale set in 1930's Chicago--one of my favorite tricks of the play being the lights and shadows cast against the back wall to give the illusion of a cityscape, the underside of the el tracks, or the headstones of Graceland Cemetery, as appropriate.

I really liked the first play, San Valentino and teh Melancholy Kid, and not a small part of that like was because it dealt with cowboys. I really disliked Curse of the Crying Heart, being part two and concerning samurais, mostly because I didn't think it lived up to the promise of chapter one, or of the promise of the House. I was disappointed overall with the House's second season (of which Crying Heart was a part--we're nearly through season three now, for those keeping score). The House's first full year of shows--dealing with Harry Houdini, cowboys, space ships, romance, 3-D, rock bands, death-defying escapes, violinists, and love, love, love--was presented with a fistful of hope for the future. I know a few theater types here and there, and I'm the only one I know who really likes the House--but that's mostly because they get a little snobby about theater. When we talk about why I like the House, they shake their heads, look at the ground, and say things like, "You now, there's a tradition . . . and if you're going to do theater . . . man, there's just this tradition, and you have to know you're walking in the footsteps of that tradition."

Their meaning being that the House somehow isn't, I suppose. But I think the House acknowledges that tradition in the best way you can, but taking the bits you like, changing the bits you don't, and taking a whole lot of other bits from other stuff. The House uses vaudeville, movies, comics, pop culture, everything they can get their eyes, ears, lips, noses and hands on. And I like that, even when their shows aren't perfect.

But with season two--and with Crying Heart--I felt that they were mostly treading water. I should exclude Cave With Man from that statement, which opened their second season, because that's one of the best plays I've seen them do. Cave was a play that operated almost wholly within its own invented language, which was fun and interesting to get your head around. And (at least the performance I saw) opened with the audience taking part in a drumming, beating, clapping ritual that made you feel like you were seeing some THEATER, man. It was a fun show. But Crying Heart, and Dave DaVinci Saves the Universe after it, didn't do anything new for me. When the House was clever in these two plays, it felt like they were doing it for clever's sake, as opposed to the sake of the play and the folks seeing it. I felt the same way after their third season opener, The Great and Terrible Oz.

But! Valentine Victorious puts them back on a track that I appreciate. I don't know if they do it consciously or not, but they seem to have one "gimmick" every play--magic tricks or 3D or wire-fu or something--and the trick this time worked a lot better than some others. Even with the Rocket Man, which I adored, the 3D seemed out of place and tricksy for the sake of it--but in Valentine, the House used oversized comic book panels during one scene that really called for it. It accentuated the scene and accomplished something that would have otherwise been absent. When this trilogy began I was excited about the use of music--the Trick Hearts have accompanied every performance of the Valentine Trilogy since it began, with the lead character (always played by Nathan Allen, except for a brief spell where he broke his hand during Valentine's run) singing and occasionally playing guitar. With San Valentino, I thought the music would match the genre somehow--but it seemed like that idea was abandoned after part one. Valentine offered a nice opportunity to bring that back with some period-inspired songs, but except for one particular sexy number sung by Carolyn Defrin, it was the same old heartache-rock. Maybe it's just a matter of taste, but for the most part I wanted to get back to the play this time around.

The dialogue was spot-on and snappy and the outfits evoked the feeling of comics and pulps without making the actors look unintentionally silly. I don't entirely understand what happened in the climactic scene--it's a battle between Valentine and his arch-foe, the Black Skull--but I think I worked it out on the bus ride to Pick Me Up after the show. But even that hiccup wasn't enough to throw the piece as a whole off-track. The show was a fitting end to the Trilogy and even, I dare say it, shows the House's growing maturity.

(Well, now that I think about it--the Trilogy's love story, mostly between Valentine and a girl who dies in part one, might need a little more closure. Or maybe it was a choice to keep that unspoken, in which case that's fine by me.)

It was a fine show put on by some fine folks, and if I'd known it was going to win my heart back I wouldn't have put it off until closing night. They close out their third season with Joe Meno's new play, written by Joe and based on his upcoming novel, The Boy Detective Fails. I think it starts in May. Also, they have a swell blog up at .