With Great Reverence and Love to the Martin Family

• Tuesday, February 22, 2011 0 comments
It says a little too much about me that I'm more comfortable doing this here, but... ah, well.

I'd like to start by sending my best wishes to my friend Seth, and his wife, Nichole, who just yesterday welcomed into the world a beautiful baby daughter, Chloe Martin. I hardly even know where to begin, and my only message to Seth, up until now, has been a "Congratulations" on his Facebook page at the posting of the picture of their wonderful new addition. It's... just how these things are done nowadays, especially with Seth several hours from here, and me with next to no idea how I'd word that phone conversation.

I have had the privilege of knowing Seth for several years now. Not what I think most people would consider well, certainly not as well as I'd like, a fact that remains true for... a lot of people I have the pleasure of knowing, actually. I'd honestly like to fix that, and heaven knows I've tried, but let's face it, anyone reading here is well aware that I'm that rare-mix of socially-retarded and self-obsessed, which generally leaves my friends getting this reserved admiration from me, that I'm sure reads less like admiration, and far too often as self-satisfied interest. It isn't, but genetics are against me - my nose just naturally turns up. Add to that the distance, and my not driving, and it's a wonder that I have gotten to know Seth at all, but I have, a little, and as strange as this is to say, every single time has been nothing short of an 'event,' at least in my mind.

Some of them are fairly obvious. You don't often get to see a man spin-kick a guy while starring in his own motion picture, or perform a shooting star press on one of the fatter wrestlers on the indie circuit, and unless you travel in far different circles than I do, you very rarely get to see the same guy dolled up for a friend's wedding, or in the sweltering back seat of a station wagon on its way home from Chicago. Probably don't get the opportunity to say your first prolonged exposure to such an interesting dude involved way too many gay jokes, and a softcore porn version of Spider-Man chased with a Melvin Van Peebles biopic. So I guess you can see why so many of my run-ins with Seth have seemed like such big deals, so epic, if you will, though none of those mentioned are necessarily my favorites. My favorite, really, is much more selfish than all that.

Seth has the unique distinction of being one of only two people I know to really connect themselves to something I've written. The first person, she... overtook me, somehow, and I wrote for her as much as what I wrote became, at least in my mind, very much a part of her. But Seth worked his way into my head in an entirely different matter, digging out a place for himself in "Nova" [now the project which may never happen] during an early table read that forever connected him to a character I had actually written with no true, discernible person in mind. He found the rhythm of the dialogue, the one thing I always work so hard on, and nailed it so completely I remain amazed when recalling it even to this day [and I probably shouldn't be - as in all things, Seth never fails to excel]. I am not a man used to being understood, I suppose, and this went a step farther, for the first time in my life, Seth, being an genuinely talented, exceptional fucking guy, just "got it," and this, this tied him to a part of me in way [in a totally hetero, non-bondage way] that I'll never forget. Always be grateful for it, always felt... less lonely for it, I guess.

I don't have a lot of friends who have kids. Seth's not the first, of course [unless I'm forgetting somebody], I think the first is probably my friend Lisa, who I know reads this space occasionally, and who I have also done a real shit job of keeping up with, and who has started a wonderful family in her own right [I doubt there's a more sly and loving mother out there]. But again, with the company I keep, it's not something you ever expect, even at this age, and while I have been aware that Nichole was pregnant since Christmas, it hadn't yet crossed my mind that the baby would soon be with us, late to the party though I was already. And it's truly a special occasion, a real achievement in a world where achievement isn't so easy to gage.

There's no doubt in my mind that Seth and Nichole will be amazing parents. I hope I'm not insulting anyone by saying this, but I can't imagine a better father than Seth, and though I do not know Nichole well, every time I have met her she has seemed warm, and kind, and affable, a true beauty both inside and out. If she is like Seth [and I imagine she would have to be to keep up with him] she too must excel in so many of her pursuits. I'm sure this will be no different. I think, all of us, looking back, even if you loved your parents and thought they were the greatest in the world, might give pause if offered the possibility of being raised by Seth and Nichole Martin. And their daughter Chloe is truly blessed with just such an opportunity.

They are, of course, blessed to have Chloe too - which, I think, now, has to go down in history as the most obvious and unnecessary sentiment I've ever felt need to voice. But it's my way. It is also my way to wish them well, to send them good feelings and all the love that can be spared. I am just so truly happy for them both... I can only imagine how their own hearts must be bursting, I can only imagine what they must feel.

Welcome to the world, Chloe Martin. We're glad to have you, and the place is a damn sight better now that you're here.

---

Not much has been done on my side of things. I have been feeling very much under the weather the past few days, a weird combination of not quite sick and not quite depressed [all right, quite a bit of both, but I'm not fishing for pity here] that has left me ill-equipped to much in the way of usefulness. I am still without one, over-arching project, and so I've spent what little coherency I've had looking at some old things, and will probably continue to do just that until something new crops up, or a breakthrough is made. The passion still isn't there, and it may just be the coming of spring, or it may just be the accumulation of winter goings-on, but for the most part I feel largely unmotivated, and until that changes, I'm not entirely sure what to do next.

Even the exercises I try to get in, the little bit of writing each day, have been clumsy and weird, and I abandoned one yesterday in disgust when I could no longer look at the jagged red lines each time I misspelled "delivery." It's very odd for me to walk away from the page angry - sure, unproductive spells might make me anxious, or depressed, but to be actually annoyed was odd and not something I want to make a regular habit of. I've never minded when it wasn't easy; I can even handle it not being fun sometimes. But I'm not sure what to do with that.

I've filled most of my non-productive hours with television, specifically "Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood," which I got sick of waiting on and crammed all 64 episodes into a week-long marathon. I'm always interested in seeing different interpretations and adaptations, and this filled that need pretty spectacularly, and I found myself especially charmed by how even with the sleeker animation - the more cartoon-y visuals, if you will - this story was quite a bit darker than the previous series, with a great deal more emotional weight. I've always liked that [it's why Todd Nauck always wowed me], and it was nice to see here. The empathy, the willingness to sympathize with almost every character, even if they were "bad guys" was also sort of... stirring, with one scene with an enemy soldier pinned down on a stairwell doing more than some of the best war movies every have, as far as it concerned "the other side." I think if there is a lesson, something in FMA: Brotherhood to be looked at and emulated, it's probably that, and I might try and explore it further, down the line, though it is admittedly a little outside my usual subject matter.

I wound up a little uncomfortable with the ending, as everything tied up a bit too neat for my tastes, but considering this one had to live up to the experience of watching the original series with friends at Bennington, it more than held its own. Regrettable that it too can't be shared in a similar fashion, but...

Well, anyway.

Want to thank everyone who took the time to read "Conversation Between Future Lovers in the Psych Ward." I will admit to being a little disappointed... I quite liked this one, I mean I didn't at first, but once I did the edits and really got everything hitting just so, I thought there might be something to it, but I didn't get quite the response I was hoping for. I'm starting to think there's really no point to writing up these dialogue pieces anyway. If I can't fit them in scripts, there may just be no future for them. I poked around a little, too, just to see what some places take in the way of submissions, and didn't feel much like they'd be welcome, either, so... At least they're nice to play with. Again, really appreciate all those who said supportive things, "liked" it on Facebook. I may just have to think about their applications a little more.

Comic stuff is still going strong. Justin set up a private website for me to keep up with Calamity Cash work, particularly the thumbnails he's been doing in his spare time, and I expect to have more updates about that project in the near future. I'm actually really into what he did with the website, as now we can both make comments on things, but we don't have to be free at the same time. It's a lot like me and Ander's e-mails, now, which is a nice, and yeah, I expect to have some more news about our project together [re: VHS Generation] soon.

But I'm not really rushing anyone. Again, I've hardly felt like I've had it together, lately, and I've still got some little things to do. Still have to file my taxes, still have books coming in to review.

Feel so exhausted lately. More soon.

Conversation Between Future Lovers in the Psych Ward

• Friday, February 18, 2011 2 comments
“It’s all serious shit here, isn’t it?”

“Probably. But how do you mean?”

“Oh you know. ‘Getting better.’ We work on getting better, we talk about getting better, and we follow all the little rules that, if we follow just right, will get us... better.”

“Well, considering the venue.”

“And it doesn’t bug you? That it’s everything, all the time. That it’s what our whole life is now.”

“I don’t really plan on being here my whole life.”

“Really. You have plans?”

“Yeah. I mean, after I get...”

“Better?”

“Out of here.”

“Same thing. And that’s all this place is about.”

“They want us to stay focused, I guess.”

“Right. But there’s staying focused and then there’s... ennui.”

“No. No, I’m pretty sure they took the board games away.”

“Oh god.”

“Sorry.”

“No, but that’s just it. You have a sense a humor! And I had no idea. Because here, anything not about getting better doesn’t matter. Like when we watch TV in the rec room, we just all sit there, quiet. No one says anything, or bitches about what’s on. We don’t even quote from The Simpsons. If whatever you’re watching blows, what do you usually do?”

“I don’t know. Put up with it, or just fuck off back to my room.”

“Exactly.”

“So what? Do you really miss all those scintillating conversations about nothing? Are you suddenly feeling nostalgic to talk about the weather?”

“No... small talk makes me nervous anyway.”

“You’d never know.”

“Sometimes what it leads to is nice, though. As a for instance, ‘What medications are you on?’ has never got anyone fucked.”

“...pass.”

“I wasn’t asking!”

“Right.”

“Well... so what if I was? Maybe.”

“Nothing personal. I mean don’t get me wrong, you really know how to rock the whole hospital gown and robe combo, but...

“You’re not exactly someone to get broken up over.”

“...pretty much.”

“No, look, I just meant...”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s not what I’m here for.”

“So what are you here for?”

“To get – oh, fuck you.”

“Now who’s asking?”

“Jesus.”

“Come on. Chill. Part of my point, you know? They put us all together like this, and make it so it’s all we are. Coke addicts, wrist cutters, and pukers.”

“Interesting order, there.”

“Not like outside. In here, it’s important. Out there, it’s just a footnote.”

“Right. Because we’ll never have to tell anyone.”

“Yeah, but then it’ll only be like, I don’t know, serious talk on a fourth date. Or getting to know you pillow talk in bed.”

“I always liked it on the couch.”

“Or in the back seat.”

“Or in the bushes. Once.”

“...or in the hall supply closet?”

“...all right.”

“I was kidding.”

“It’s why I said yes.”

“You really know how to hurt a girl’s feelings.”

“I’m told it gets better.”

“Yeah, well, until then?”

“We could always go bitch about what’s on TV.”

On Writing: The Space Between

• Wednesday, February 16, 2011 0 comments
Bit of a repose for me.

Part of it was wanting to give "New Hooverville" some time at the top of the page [if you haven't read it yet, I'd really appreciate it if you'd go check it out]. It took roughly a year to get to this point, and the urge was pretty strong to let it ride as the first thing people see when they come to the blog, and I even contemplated just leaving it up all week, uninterrupted from any off-topic dithering from yours truly. But I've been getting a surge in visitors as of late, mostly thanks to Kimberly Kaye being kind enough to link me in the sidebar of her blog [for the rest of you who do this, know I appreciate it from you too -- Kaye's link, though, for some reason, has been keeping me in steady referrals for the past two weeks, many of them looking like return visits -- which is rare for me], and when being looked at there is naturally a pretty strong urge to perform and produce. Which is actually what I wanted to talk a bit about.

I'm in a strange place with my writing now. "New Hooverville" is resting as 25,000 word monster which I currently have no place for, and nothing to do with. I think, ideally, I'd just like it to get out there, into the world, and have as many people see it as possible, with or without my name attached to it. As much as I don't want to get into a topic of "what the artist really meant" since, whatever you do or don't take from the piece is perfectly valid, no matter what I wanted, "Hooverville" speaks to this phenomenon I see every day with my peers, a frustration between what they want to do artistically, and the pressure they feel to join up, and act as regular person - to be a part of the "real world." And to be a bit snotty about it, I just don't think regular people necessarily feel that pressure, or at least, not in the same way -- I think so many of them look at that real world, at the nine-to-five, the long-term drudgery of things like managing taxes and health insurance, like working out weddings and starting families, and see anything other than big, welcoming arms of responsibility and adulthood.

I think the rest of us see it, more likely, as a gaping maw. Even those who have learned to work it to their favor. And "New Hooverville" is just me wondering, I guess, why there isn't a louder objection to that. Why those who look at that system, look at that one definition of what responsibility and being an adult is, and say "bullshit!" -- but even more, why in the hell, when I know so many of us feel this way, we don't band together, we don't turn that "bullshit!" into a chorus, we don't just... check out. Try it another way. Do it together. There'd be strength in that.


I don't know the answer to any of that. "New Hooverville" was me trying to get at it, and I think I did, a little bit, I think after all that time I got closer to getting a handle on those feelings -- maybe just "that" feeling -- and I think, maybe, the next thing I work on will have that in it too. "A Change is Gonna Come" certainly did. Without stretching, I think maybe even "Nova," I think even the peep show script is all approaching that same topic, that same feeling, from various angles. So yes, the next thing will almost definitely be about that, but...

I just don't know what that next thing is.

The space between projects is one of the most annoying I've ever encountered. I know writers and creative-types, artists, dancers, actors, etc. who never experience that, who never slow down, who never have less than four things going at once, who think stopping is a privilege, and privilege is bad, so they just never stop. Inspiration flows from them like a fountain, and they are the luckiest of us. They're the reason most of us feel like we aren't writers, aren't artists, aren't creatives, because certainly, if we were, we'd never stop either. No, they must be the real deal, and we must just be playing at it. Because they never come to a full stop. And we do.

My experience is limited to no success and a very short time on this earth. Thanks to the internet, a thousand and one writing tutorials are a click away, ranging from people who've accomplished even less than I have [which would mean, I guess... they're not putting on pants anymore] to those we'd consider the most accomplished, and in some cases, our heroes. The Fitzgeralds, the Didions, the Roths, the Austins, the Johnsons, the Moores. All of them have some tip, some "absolute" - about how the writing on the hardest days is usually as good as those on the easiest days, or about how nothing you produce everyday to could possibly, consistently, be good so therefore expect to write everyday and delete most of it, or about... oy vey. The list is literally endless, and I for one a becoming less and less enthralled by these hard and fast rules about why what I'm not producing is my fault, or why what I am producing isn't any good. I'm not sure [and I'm saying this in a space meant to look at and catalog the process of producing work] that how you get there really matters any longer, and that even the suggestion that there is some way to become the best, to churn out good writing, or whatever you do, is at best merely subjective.

Finishing things, too, also bothers me. There's a great discomfort once you've achieved your goal, only to realize now you're in the margin, between the panels of whatever your next move is.


All of this, ultimately, contributes to my anxiety of not working, of not having a project. And right now, I feel very much like I do not have a project, like I am between work, and that because of that, I am less of [or not] a writer, and that because I am not forcing work out of myself like juice squeezed from an orange, that I'm just playing at being a writer. That I've no business being on the field. And none of this even works the other doubts -- about writers I admire who had already found so much more success long before they reached my age, about peers who have been working just as hard, and have already seen it pay dividends.

But this is not a race. And that stuff is no kind of game to play with yourself.

This kind of talk has been going on in my head for a week or two. I can't put an exact finger on it, but I became most aware of it around six days ago, when I stopped sleeping and letting the other anxieties of life really begin to work on me. I consider myself the king of no-structure, but without the structure of one, over-arching piece to work on, I apparently go to pieces with worry that not only am I failing at this... passion, profession, compulsion I've chosen, but that because of it I don't deserve to be on the field with my peers.

And "over-arching" is the important part to that. Because honestly, I have things I'm working on, things I'm doing. There's a bit of dialogue I scribbled down last week that I have plans to polish, and post here on Friday, time and motivation willing. There are also several unfinished things, some as old as this blog [re:Trendsetter], some older [re: The Familiar], and some almost complete [re: untitled peep show script] that I have re-read recently, think I could probably still do something with.

Nothing that feels like "the project" though. Not yet.

But there are other things. Though I'm not as involved at this stage, Ander and I am working on a new comic, "VHS Generation," and just because the artist is at it with pencil doesn't mean I can necessarily put mine down on the desk [the same is true for "Calamity Cash," which Justin tells me that, even with his intense work schedule, is still coming along]. Even if I could, talking with Ander over e-mail has left me with a great deal of other possible things to work with and look through [the dude sends me illustrated updates of how the work is going -- it's heavenly], including little prompts that have unintentionally but welcomely reminded me of old characters and old ideas, along with smaller projects that were almost forgotten about have begun working their way into a mini-mythology that I'd almost forgotten about [re: "White Trash Nation"]. It's all very exciting, and it, with the day-to-day upkeep around here and the fairly steady stream of books to review, well...

I'm not at a loss for things to do. And even if I were, I tend to like my free time. Luxury though that is.

New Hooverville DX

• Thursday, February 10, 2011 3 comments
[This is the working "final" draft of New Hooverville. To see the original, go here. A lot has changed and I'm feeling pretty good about where it is now, but I still welcome feedback, either here in the comments section, or you can e-mail me at mojo.wire.productions@gmail.com.]

It is 2 a.m. and raining, but the fires outside my trailer are still burning. They call it the only guarantee here – that the campfires will always burn, every night, and all night long.

I envy their resolve, and struggle at starting a fire of my own, though on a much smaller scale. The half pack of Pall Malls I traded for earlier look beyond tantalizing, but my disappointingly wet matches refuse to bless me with even a single spark, and with every fizzle I feel God’s wrath and anger. Not just at myself, of course, for leaving the matchbook out, but also toward the flighty, pale-skinned girl who’d passed me the pack in exchange for the airplane glue I’d had on my person. The way she’d eyed that half-rolled bottle of adhesive, as if seeing some hidden potential, made me think she was keen on it for getting high. But I was new here then, and such mistakes were to be expected.

Giving up on the matches, I head outside, feeling as though I had been fleeced, even if all sane logic assured me this not that girl’s fault. She was without guile, a silly but brilliant private school beauty, just one of many here who’d had no interest in me until the revelation that I carried art supplies and stationary, all pilfered from my editor’s personal supply closet in an act of subordinate reprisal. It was the least that sad-eyed slave driver could do after sending me here, to uncover the great that was the bohemian tent city. “Go west, young man,” she had said, looking at me like an intermediary, thinking of this place like some commodity, “Bring back tales of this New Hooverville.” No, I wasn’t angry at that private school girl – I was projecting.

Four weeks later and the only thing I can say for sure is that no one in the camps likes the title “Hooverville.” The best of them wish it had been called “The Bush,” and hold tight to the moniker, but it’s not heard often on the outside. A few of the more history-minded among the camps appreciate the reference, of course, though even they agree that if the Depression era cardboard cities were to bear the name of the man responsible – Herbert Hoover – then it is only fair that these stand in eponymous tribute to the ex-president who drove this generation to ground.

Ah, this generation. Perhaps even that is unfair. Though New Hooverville boasts a population upwards of several hundred, all of them young, in their early-to-mid-twenties, it is a misnomer to categorize them as an entire generation. Indeed, among their age-group, many if not most stumbled out of college and took entry-level jobs far below the status their degrees had promised. And though insulted, these new adults were willing to swallow their pride, clock in, and join the real world – nine to five, or eight to seven, or even noon to midnight, all for the compensation of paupers and the possibility of something better tomorrow. That is more likely an accurate depiction of this generation.

But that is not what the Media see. What the Media and the country at large has taken to noticing are these dissenters, this vocal minority, the residents of New Hooverville, or as it is so fondly called by the more risqué publications: “Generation Couldn’t Give a Shit.” It, like the name of the makeshift camps, is an identity everyone is still getting used to. Some here proudly claim it, emblazon it on parked vans, paint it on canvas tents, and even self-tattoo it with borrowed ink and improvised needles or, if supplies don’t permit, any sharp object that might make the mantra permanently visible on the skin. And those I’ve met with such scar tissue have intimated to me but a single regret – that perhaps a shorter phrase could have been found.

Others feel the title is just as inappropriate as the camp town’s name. Shawnee Gratta is a recent graduate, and one of the few citizens of New Hooverville willing to offer a quote without badgering. “It’s easy to say we don’t care. That we’re too young, too stubborn, too jaded. That we can’t possibly be trying to make a statement. Or worse, that we’re just shiftless, and lazy.” Shawnee is a newer resident, but her former major in political science [shifted in her senior year, when she discovered pottery] left her unchallenged as the Hooverville’s spokesperson. She was quick to latch on to me, as much as she could to an outsider, claiming some significance in my arrival. It’s important to her that I don’t get it wrong.

The scene is like some sort of perverse Woodstock, the nigh-constant rain reducing the camp into a hell-blown mud pit, with hippies and hipsters and beat-wannabes standing, sitting, and shitting shoulder to shoulder among tents, lean-tos, and burnt-out trailers [mine was provided by the publishers, but here it’s more of a Mark of Cain than a journalistic perk]. Traversing the camp is what you might expect – huddled masses of muddy, half-naked 20-somethings, swearing and shivering and smiling, and yes, even making out, under quilts and parkas and torn sleeping bags, all of which have seen better days.

Tonight, it is darker than usual, and in the fire-light even the most dependable eyes can play tricks on you. It is easy to get turned around here, but Shawnee reaches me before I’ve wandered too far in without her. She has something she wants me to see, and promises I’ll get my fix on the way.

On that way, I try to distract myself by looking for familiar faces, but it seems the longer I am here, the fewer I recognize. Before snubbing me completely, Ryan Sook, rumored to be one of the longest tenants of New Hooverville, tried to explain:

“No one should call this a home,” he said, eyeing me, nonetheless, like a trespasser. “We’re a half-way house, a check point, some place to stop over on your own journey.” Still, it’s hard to believe things are as temporary as Sook says – especially from someone so quick stress the convenience and community of the arrangement. “They’ll spin it lots of ways, but ultimately, it’s like roommates. Two living as cheaply as one.” He smiles, an uncomfortable gesture when directed at me. “And what are they going to do, throw us all out?”

I’m uncertain how much Sook knows, how much information gets in, but in Washington, that very thing had just recently been discussed. Before my pilgrimage here, I spent three weeks on Capitol Hill, listening to endless rhetoric about juvenile delinquency [ridiculous, as most in the camps were post-grads] and public nuisance, laughable for the fact that they all mostly kept to themselves. And the president wasn’t about to come out against them, especially when so much of his election seemed to have hinged upon their votes – the youth movement.

He wasn’t alone. Whether only a vocal minority or not, the last thing anyone in DC wanted was the National Guard busting heads and uniting the rest of America’s disaffected youth with these art school yahoos. Mostly. Though sources will go unnamed, right up until the night of the final vote on the “Public Dispersal Bill” (which ultimately failed), several high-ranking officials were hoping that New Hooverville might go the way of Altamont, or even better, Spahn Ranch, thus giving Congress a Sharon Tate-sized reason to get rid of these kids. And like with the name of the camp, those watching and commentating seemed to only be showing their age.

Meanwhile no such violence took place. Indeed, it’s hard to find anyone willing to do violence in the camps – unless it’s against their selves, with frustrated self-flagellation a fairly common occurrence. It was what drew me to the otherwise down-to-earth Ron Twill. Ronnie caught my eye mostly for how odd he looked among the residents – baggy pants, a hooded sweatshirt, and medical bandages – wrapped tight and covering both his forearms.

“I just got down,” he said, seemingly sure anyone would understand how that connected to the boxer’s breaks in his hands. Unlike others, he didn’t mind me pressing him. “I was writing. I mean, I’ve been here a few months. Put a lot of stuff together in the time, and had only really started sending it out.” But the rejection letters soon came, a reality of the outside world that was easy to forget in the camps. “I sort of lost it. What I mean – I hauled off and took it all out on a tree. I think we were in the emergency room all night. I felt like such a screw up – not as a writer, not as a creative, just at being an adult.”

It’s a sentiment echoed often in New Hooverville. One girl, nameless, whom I saw more my first few days, claimed she was only here because of her lack of success in the job market post-college. “I sort of fail at being a grown-up. So now, I paint.” Shawnee too is always expressing to me how she doesn’t want this place to be viewed as some kind of “collective temper tantrum.” No one is here because they don’t want to be on their own, because they don’t want to live in the adult world. They’re just not sure how, not without trading their passions for a place there.

Rather, they have decided if the world has no room for them to make a living at what they love, then in the name of their loves they will make no living. They stay here, in New Hooverville, and trade paints and booze, and drugs and food, build homemade kilns and makeshift print machines. They hide, among friends, where financial aid dare not tread, away from debt, and parents, and the future. They protect and help each other. And they go penniless, and many go without food, and yes, for the sake of necessity, so much of their art is sacrificed to keep dream alive, the secret of their ever-burning fires bright from the fuel of canvas and turpentine. But that, to them, is their own sacrifice to make, and not one put upon them by others. They starve here for the only reason starving artists should – for their principles, and their passions.

Eventually Shawnee and I come to an overhang, where a hundred or so citizens of New Hooverville stand around a much different fire, this one handheld and emanating from a butane torch. Wielding it is an emaciated man I knew only by reputation, whom everyone called “Twitch” with such a look of concern on their faces, as if he were very ill and needed tending. And with good reason, though tonight he seemed able-bodied, even hardy, from working diligently on whatever we couldn’t yet quite see. Vulcan made flesh, on background of sparks which flew from his enclosure.

A month here and scenes like this had become commonplace to me, and I needed a cigarette more than I needed to see one more sculpture forged from trash only to be dismantled the following day. But Shawnee insisted, less that I stay, and more that I stay with her, and hold her hand – a bold gesture as a part of this community, to so intimately and publicly embrace an outsider. Perhaps her days here are numbered and my coming in has signaled to her that someone needs to venture out, to spread the word of what’s been started here. But tonight there was just Twitch and his entourage – and Shawnee, looking over to me as if to illustrate that what went on now had far greater weight than any byline New Hooverville might provide me or my editor. And as if with this realization, Twitch threw down his torch with a finality befitting his performance, and shrank back, enfeebled again, skulking off to the side.

The ratio had shifted heavily female without me noticing, and there was an audible shudder with his conclusion. In that moment I realized, had he wept or fallen, they might have all run to his side. But Twitch did not, and when sure of this fact the crowd shifted forward, like a wave, bearing down toward the weak pillars of the overhang. And as all those artists, writers, failures, and deviants crested against it, and the wood twisted and shook, and folded before them, Twitch’s masterpiece stood revealed. And there were gasps; and finally, Twitch cried.

The sculpture itself was nothing I hadn’t expected, and yet somehow I felt touched, moved by the great rusted ball of iron scrap and copper wire standing before me – a perfectly round metal monolith, just under a story tall. It was tragic to look at, if only because the materials might well have fetched enough money to feed the entirety of New Hooverville for a few days more. But that was, of course, the point, that here they had built a new world, a cobbled together planetoid that did not turn because it was not made to, where if they wanted to choose life or art, there was always time to try both. Where the choice was a choice, to a whole generation who thought it hadn’t been.

Shawnee left me with the morning, no doubt feeling she’d imparted her lesson, and maybe wanting, one last time, to be a part of the harem that looked after the ailing Twitch. Returning to the trailer crossed my mind, but I suddenly felt dissatisfied with my assignment and the demands of my editor, breathing down my neck in the manner she liked best – from thousands of miles away, wielding the threat of my looming deadline. Because I, like many, had been here too long, and the only resistance I could think to muster was to stay just a little while longer.

Eventually, I am rejoined not by Shawnee, but by Twitch. He is not here for company, but has decided after only a few hours of rest that something is not quite right, that despite his theatrics he has not yet finished, and that another day without food, without sleep, without the amenities he would not have any way is ahead of him, and he will not be deterred by this, nor the fact that the rain has started up again. As if by magic the sculptor relights his wet torch, and in the absence of his harem he does not seem to need coddling.

The only thing that truly seems to give him pause is I, your humble journalist, standing silently transfixed by his butane fire. He measures me as though I might take it from him, seeing a want in my posture I had forgotten was there, a yearning in my staring, unprotected eyes. I am surprised to see the sudden recognition on his face; I am more surprised when he finally shrugs, and asks:

“Light?”

Turtle Island

• Tuesday, February 8, 2011 0 comments
[I put this together yesterday morning as a photo album on Facebook. I've wanted to write about this for while, and having the visual aids seemed like a good reason, but I just couldn't think of a great way or medium in which to do it. The photo album idea seemed clever at the time, but as I was finishing up I realized I wasn't satisfied having it there. Since the finished product wasn't *that* different from my Chasing Amy blog, I thought I'd try it here too. This is the unedited version. Enjoy.-- The Management]

I found these pages on a scan site [not one of *those* scan sites, just one of the places that does a few pages for nostalgia's sake], and wanted to share them. They're from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #61, published in October of 1994 by Archie Comics.
The Archie comics spun out of the cartoon, but were "revamped" with Mirage staff when they weren't selling.The artwork is by Jim Lawson, the letterer is Gary Fields, the inks are by Ryan Brown. The writer is "Dean Clarrain," which years later was revealed to be pseudonym of Stephen Murphy, who would go on to write the 2003 TV show [and I believe he was also involved in the recent CGI-feature film].

Significant, because this was one of the first comics I ever read. Probably one of the first 50 I ever owned. Let me put that in perspective. Without bragging, I think my current collection stands around 5,000+. I've read more. And this was part of a small stash I had at my grandmother's, which I tended to read from casually, sitting sideways in her armchair, whenever I was there.
You probably notice these seem... odd. Murphy apparently fought with Archie Comics a lot to get content like this in. Inside were stories about spirituality, sacrifice, global warming, Communist China... a few issues before this, there was a splash page of Hell. So on the front covers were the cartoon turtles from the 90s TV series...

...and inside was this. Did I understand it? No, I don't think I was that savvy then [I'm not sure I'm that savvy now]. I mostly just wanted to see the Turtles beat up some bad guys. But when the books were like this, I never felt ripped off or lied to. I also never felt talked-down to, either -- this stuff was all here, and I was welcome to take it and try and figure it out on my own, or not. It was there, and I could deal with it when I wanted, if I ever wanted.

I think about these 8 pages a lot. Hard to intimate how much they'd affected me, how the tone of certain themes in the book, like the recurring idea of "Dreamland," would help shake me from the mindset that everything needed explained [I like to believe the groundwork laid here was one of the reasons my usual stubbornness didn't kick in when Steven Bach eventually told me just that]. I'd often show them to people. Mostly, they'd be laughed at, called heavy-handed, or be outright dismissed because of the TMNT aspect. Eventually, I stopped. I wasn't keen to have something already so ingrained in me dissected like that. Insecurities.

Eventually I misplaced the book... but that was fine, I think I was okay just keeping it close to my chest. Still, when I came across them tonight, on an occasion when I actually was thinking about them, and realized how much they've stuck with me, and influenced my own work with what they made me feel back then.Considering this, the ending of Adventures #61 still seems stirringly apropos.

"Hurts."


Credit to Archie Comics, Mirage Studios, and Scans_Daily.

One of a Kind: A Glen Brogan Christmas Gift

• Thursday, February 3, 2011 1 comments
Now this is what I call a crossover.

This was my Christmas gift from good buddy and oft-linked [I'm starting to worry "oft-linked" isn't going to seem like a thing anymore] artist Glen Brogan, depicting two of my heroes/writers I get flak for liking. It's one of those truly unique gifts, I think, not just because it's by someone as hugely talented as Glen, but also because even referencing something, it is a truly original, one of a kind, no one has anything like it in the world work. Because look at the subject matter! It's like me -- it's like all of us really, I don't believe anyone has interests that ever fill a single niche, interests that may not seem contradictory or opposite of ourselves, but also don't line up, or fit in a comfortable little box. And this is, from Glen, my meeting of those elements, the culmination of my stranger, perhaps most disparate interests from the other things I like. And whether you see me as a geek, or an intellectual, it's still pretty safe to say that these two of my interests could not, on the surface, be farther from one another.

Glen goes into greater detail on his site about his inspiration:


"The interesting thing about the drawing for my buddy Randall was that it took a while to come up with an idea I was satisfied with. I tired to make the drawings in this series [Note from the Management: Glen did a whole series of these neat little juxtapositions for our circle friends for Christmas, which you've probably seen me linking on Twitter] fit each of my friend's specific interests, and one of the best compliments I got was from my friend Mike who said that he appreciated how nobody would want any drawing more than the one they received, and you could tell who each one was for. Randall is a fan of so many things and has a great knowledge of all of them: comics, movies, books, TV shows, cartoons, video games, you name it. Even though I felt like I had a wealth of subjects I could choose from I still wanted the drawing to seem tailor made for him.

I finally settled on Kevin Smith and Mick Foley, two people whose work has meant a lot to Randall and his own work, and I know he has met or seen both of them in person. Obviously I played with the cartoon license a bit and bulked up Mick, who really isn't fat as much as just a big guy, and trimmed down Kevin, who is in fact a pretty hefty dude. (Though I can't tell if those giant shorts he wears helps or hurts his perceived appearance versus his actual size.)"


The end result is this absolutely brilliant portrait, a weird slice of what goes on inside my head and with my work, not to mention some heretofore unconsidered influences on my wardrobe that Smith and Foley might have had. And while I'm showing off the digital version here, my gift from Glen was a beautifully framed print which I one day hope to have a wall in which to prominently display it on. I really want to thank him for this amazing gift, and also the many words of praise for me and my writing I didn't quote from his post about the piece.

And if you like Glen's stuff [how could you not?], go check out his SplitReason store, where you can get prints, shirts, stickers and hoodies of his work, and as always, check out his blog, Albino Raven, to get the most up-to-date info on what he's doing, whether its for the Autumn Society, Gallery 1988, Front Magazine, or just neat things like this for his friends.

Recommended Reading: Zoe Chevat's "First Watch"

• Tuesday, February 1, 2011 2 comments
For those of you who don't follow me on Twitter [really? I'm great there], or who are blind in their right eye and unable to turn their head, you might be unaware that my friend and fellow Bennington grad Zoe Chevat, a very talented artist/animator/illustrator/writer/steampunk-dandy has put her first comic, appropriately titled "First Watch," up on her blog, AnachroLush. As I've likely mentioned in the past, Zoe is currently a student at CalArts University, and this was actually one of many projects she's undertaken while studying there.

Notably, her instructor for this particular project was the former DC editor Jim Higgins, a name those of you who consider yourself discerning comic book fans will likely recognize. And while not as impressive as Higgins, I also had the privilege [along with a handful of others] to be involved in some small way, and am credited as editor/cheerleader. Knowing what a colossal amount of work a comic is [especially since she carried both the writing and art duties], no matter how long or what the content, my contribution was really just a drop in the bucket, and to be acknowledge in such a flattering way, in such an impressive, polished project is really touching. And I want to say thank you for that.


So thank you, Z. It means so much.


But, I do not do *this* post as out of thanks. I do this because there is an awesome, free comic up on the internet by one of my insanely talented [now if I can flatter myself] peers, and I encourage all of you to go and read it, in it's entirety, now that it is all up for free on the web. So go forth and read "First Watch - The Ashcan Edition," and don't forget to read Zoe's much better intro to the project before you get started.


Also, if you want to read the book spoiler-free, is to open each link individually, and in order. The rarely encountered shortcoming of a blog is that the most recent entry is always at the top of the page, so unless you want to see page ten and the acknowledgments right off, I suggest you start here:

"First Watch" - Title Page, and Page 1 [1/26/2011]
"First Watch" - Page 2-3 [1/27/2011]
"First Watch" - Page 4-5 [1/28/2011]
"First Watch" - Page 6-7 [1/29/2011]
"First Watch" - Page 8-9 [1/30/2011]
"First Watch" - Page 10 and Thank Yous [1/31/2011]

Enjoy. And keep checking back with Zoe's blog. Not only does she cover some really eclectic material over there, she also previews other projects she working on, some CalArts related, some not. Plus, if you like "First Watch"... there are rumblings that a print version is on the way.