Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Night Songs And Whispers #1: Songs

I’m reading a book.
This evening I’ll play guitar,
sing to the New Year.

The reading lamp bulb
is just sixty watts. I play
soft finger-picking.

In quiet shadows
the New Year can whisper things.
Night. Songs and whispers.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Egyptian Queen, Grace Slick, Beyond Apollo

When I was growing up, artists I knew wanted
to be as good as Frank Frazetta, or better.
And musicians I knew wanted to be as good
as the Jefferson Airplane, or maybe better.
A writer—that is, me—wanted to be as good
as Barry Malzberg. I thought I could be better.

Who in the current world does anybody want
to be better than, or even just as good as?
Is anybody good at anything today,
or is everybody today just cashing in
on their lottery-like fifteen minutes of fame?

Starting from Frazetta, the Airplane and Malzberg
the world of yesterday transformed into today,
cool phones that fry our brains, zombie games and “The Hills.”

When dawn comes to the Novus Ordo Seclorum,
when this today transforms into that tomorrow,
will Time publish a cover asking, IS GOOD DEAD?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Frank Frazetta

Jefferson Airplane

Barry Malzberg

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Creature That Ate Britney


Okay, first of all, this post has no code words. “Britney” just means Britney.

Second, careful readers of Impossible Kisses will have noticed that today’s post is really a kind of sequel to a post from last year, Britney Spears: Death By Dinosaur. In that post (also a post without code words!) Britney was hired to perform for the guests at Jurassic Park. When Britney died at the park, apparently in a classic rock star manner, her people leaked a story about Britney being eaten by dinosaurs because it seemed like a more glamorous way to die. So, today’s post is an illustration not of the actual events of that fictitious story about Britney at Jurassic Park, but rather it’s an illustration of the fictitious urban legend that has grown up around the fictitious story of Britney at Jurassic Park. Cha-cha-cha!

Third, looking carefully at today’s post, you can see that I did the lettering with a dip pen instead of a felt tip. I like the look of this lettering much better than felt tip lettering. However, even so, I dislike the process of using a dip pen and a bottle of ink so much that I strongly suspect I will go back to using a felt tip.

Fourth: The color in this image was rendered with colored pencils. I’d intended to end the year with an acrylic paint cartoon. I even did test mixes to get the colors correct in paint. However, I abandoned that plan. And I think I figured out why I’m hesitating to switch to acrylics for this kind of work. When I complete an image like this, I put the “finished” piece on a table off to the side of my bedroom. Then, for a day or two, as I’m walking in and out of the room, I’m always checking out the image in different lights, from different angles. I often pick up an eraser or pencil and make little corrections, changes and tweaks to the image. If I use acrylics, that process of making final little fixes would be much harder, because I’d have to squeeze out paint, mix it and clean up afterward for every little change. It’s just much more convenient, right now, to use stick-based colors of various kinds.

Finally, although there is no conscious coding in this post, many hours after I finished the piece—during the period when I was making little tweaks and fixes—I noticed that a person might construe there to be something like a hidden meaning to the image. It’s something that happened with absolutely no forethought—no conscious thought of any kind!—on my part. I’m not going to dwell on or discuss that hidden meaning here. However, sometime in the future I may come back to this post and use it as an example of how people creating something are often the last people to know what they’re really doing.

Sometime in the future, I may do a post on the topic of how that concept seems to separate “arts & craft people” from “arts & entertainment” people: arts & craft people always know exactly what they’re making and a careful arts and crafts person probably would say you must know exactly what you’re making for it to come out properly; arts & entertainment people almost never know what they’re making, often even after they’ve finished making it, and a careful arts and entertainment person probably would say that’s why art and entertainment require serious skill, because you must make something come out properly even though you have only the vaguest idea what it is you’re making.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cognitive Blur #4: Supergirl

On the TV show SMALLVILLE Clark Kent kept secrets
and Clark Kent always lied to protect his secrets.

People always can tell when someone has secrets.
People always can tell when someone is lying.

Clark Kent’s secrets and lies made life hard for his friends.
They felt hurt, frustrated, disappointed, angry.

But viewers knew—“viewers” are people observing
the story from a trans-textual perspective—
that Chloe, Lex and Lana shouldn’t have worried.
Viewers knew that all of Clark Kent’s secrets and lies
weren’t a reflection of his relationships
but rather were an expression of the turmoil
going on inside him as he struggled living
as a superhero. Clark Kent is Superman.

A friend of mine seems to constantly keep secrets.
A friend of mine seems to be constantly lying.

I’ve felt hurt, frustrated, disappointed, angry.

A few days ago Lana Lang took me aside
and had a chat with me in strange, intense whispers.

“Maybe you should look at your life,” Lana Lang said,
“from something like a trans-textual perspective.
Maybe the secrets your friend keeps, the lies she tells,
aren’t a reflection of her relationship
to you. Maybe they’re an expression of turmoil
going on inside her. Maybe she is struggling
with superhero angst. Maybe she’s Supergirl.”

I’m guessing it would be tough to be Supergirl.
And I’m guessing, too, that even normal people—
people who aren’t superheroes—might struggle
with something similar to superhero angst.

I’m glad Lana Lang took me aside, had that chat,
made me think from a trans-textual perspective.

I don’t know if my friend can fly, leap tall buildings
in a single bound. I suspect that she can’t. But
if someday she were to let me see her flying
I wouldn’t be too shocked to learn she’s Supergirl.
She always has been a superhero to me.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In Monday’s post I said
I have trouble letting go of things.
That’s true. But with today’s post
I think I’ve said everything
I can say on this topic.
I think I can let go

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Cognitive Blur #3: Britney And The Crow’s Song

It’s Christmas somewhere between Duluth and Chicago.
Somewhere between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, too.
Is Britney Spears spending Christmas driving herself through
the glaring white headlight and glaring red taillight glow

between tiny incandescent bulbs of LA’s show
and giant neon tubes that keep Las Vegas in view?
Between Duluth and Chicago the dark is a brew,
a witch’s brew of broken light bulb, night, sound of crow.

White headlights. Red taillights. Los Angeles. Las Vegas.
I wonder if Britney driving alone sings along
when the radio plays a Britney Spears song at night?

Duluth. Chicago. The only bright thing this Christmas,
the only pretty glare distracting from the crow’s song,
is the thought that Britney Spears is somewhere in the light.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cognitive Blur #2: Tea And Extinctions

“In any sequence of random numbers,” she said,
“there are emergent bursts of order. Digit pairs.
Consecutive numbers. Strings from Pi. And like flares
in the dark these clusters stand out as if in red.

But they are just random, like clothes tossed on a bed
that fall in a pattern, an arrangement of chairs
scattered at a party that looks designed, the glares
of sun off leaves that blink like Morse code to be read.”

She sipped tea, then continued. “I think extinctions
and radiations we see in fossil records
are just clusters, the dynamics of randomness

expressed by the biosphere. The cool depictions
we see of space impacts and climate change like swords
chopping phyla is our quest-for-order madness.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cognitive Blur #1: Librarian Bond Girl

One of the women working at our library
is taller in my mind than when we stand talking.
In my mind she’s something like a Bond Girl walking
toward me, her eye-line level with mine and wary,

like all Bond Girls, of the schemes she’ll have to parry,
dismissive, like all Bond Girls, of the rubes gawking,
thinking, like all Bond Girls, a soft Stephen Hawking
but female, mobile, not hooked to machinery.

But here in real life—I mean here outside my mind—
I think I’m something like an inch taller than her.
The other Bond Girl things, though, are still going on

but when we talk my eye-line is tipped down I find.
In my mind and out, I love the cognitive blur
of this librarian Bond Girl phenomenon.

Monday, December 22, 2008

“What Is It About You, Lana?”

Clana, Lexana: Loving Lana

Ode To “Smallville”

Back in September I posted “Ode To Smallville” and I intended that to be my final post about Smallville.

Didn’t work out that way.

(I sometimes have trouble letting go of things. I see by the tabloids, however, that I’m not alone in that regard. The current issue of OK magazine announces that Jennifer Aniston is ‘Obsessed with Angie!’ Hmmm. I believe the magazine is talking about Angelina Jolie. Hmmm. Obsessed with Angie . . . [laughs] )

Anyway . . .

So, in September I thought I was done with Smallville. The show had been going downhill ever since season five. Season seven was almost unwatchable, but I watched it. Season eight, the current season, is unwatchable and although I tune in now and then I always click away sad and angry at what the show has become.

However at some point I was watching an old, season three episode of Smallville and I got to thinking about how they established this great character for Lana Lang but then never really did anything cool with her. Obviously they have to work within the established Superman mythos for Lana Lang. Clark Kent knows Lana as a kid and later as an adult, but his life partner is Lois Lane. Still, the show had found interesting ways to explore the Clark/Lex relationship. I thought they could have done much more with Lana.

So I decided to write a little about her myself.

Yeah, I know it’s lame to fixate on a TV show. I once knew a woman—a very cool woman—who wasted an unbelievable amount of time and effort writing a novel [a novel!] about Kirk and Spock. [sighs] [shakes head] I don’t think I’m going to invest too much more time and effort in Smallville. Maybe one or two more posts late this week or next week. That will be it.

Then I will put Smallville behind me.

Incidentally, the season three episode that got me thinking about Lana wasn’t “Obsession,” which I used for today’s frame-based cartoon. It was “Truth.” Here is the scene that got me hooked thinking about Lana.

In this little scene, Lana is talking to her best friend Chloe. Lana’s parents died in the meteor shower and when Lana’s aunt left Smallville, Lana was able to remain in town by moving in with Chloe. They are good friends, but as we see, Lana has secrets even from Chloe. In “Truth,” Chloe is exposed to a failed LuthorCorp experiment [do they ever work?] and discovers that everyone feels compelled to tell her the truth. At first Chloe is thrilled. She’s a proto-reporter and getting the truth from people is her dream. But she starts to experience the downside of the truth during this talk with Lana:

CHLOE: Is it just me or did I completely clear out the lunch crowd?

LANA: No, it was you. Ever since you turned the Torch into your own gossip column no one can stand being around you.

CHLOE: Well, at least you’re still talking to me, right?

LANA: For now.

CHLOE: Okay. What’s that about?

LANA: I applied to the Paris School of the Arts. They have a full-time high school program and if I get accepted I start in the summer.

CHLOE: Wow. I guess I’m out of the loop. When did you decide this?

LANA: I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. Everyone has their families, you know, and I’m not sure where I fit in.

CHLOE: But I always thought we were your family.

LANA: Oh, come on, Chloe. I know what you and everyone else thinks of me. That I’m driven and self-involved. I just can’t wait to get out of here and go somewhere where people don’t judge me.

CHLOE: I never said anything like that.

LANA: You never had to.

CHLOE: Why have you never talked to me about this?

LANA: Because I couldn’t trust you.

Chloe, in tears, turns and runs out of the room.

That’s a pretty cool scene. But what struck me was Lana’s assessment of her character: Driven. Self-involved. Committed to the arts. The show always featured Lana as a complex character, but it never really explored details of why she was any of those things, and the show never really showed her being any of those things.

I wish it had. Those are pretty cool things and it would have taken the show at least part of the way toward explaining why Clark Kent should be so in love with her.


So, that’s the background to these Lana Lang posts. I’ll be doing one or two more posts about Lana Lang sometime in the future. But for the next few days I’ve got Other Stuff on the way . . .

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Year Winds Down #3: Shirt And Tie

Once I compared my love for a woman—
the sense of oneness I felt when with her—
to the way a sharp shirt looks when paired with
a very hip tie. I really mailed out
a short poem built around that metaphor
to a woman I hoped to have sex with.

Yeah. After that I’d have had better luck
with the dry cleaner girl who speaks Chinese.

I’m fervently hoping writing this poem
might be possibly the equivalent—
the beatnik and bongos equivalent—
of the Catholic believer’s practice
of purging their soul via confession.

Somewhere up in the clouds of Olympus
the Muses are looking away from me.
They’re terrified they might see me scribble
something like that shirt and tie thing again.

Oh Nine Heavenly Babes, please don’t give up.

Daughters of Mnemosyne, I confess
and I’m heartily sorry for my sins.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Year Winds Down #2: Buying Junk

The nearby neighborhood video store
closed-up for good two or three weeks ago.
During their closing sale I held my dough
while their DVDs cost five bucks or more.

Just before they finally locked their door
for the last time their prices were so low—
DVDs two bucks—I stopped saying no
and bought two horror films. Low budget gore.

I bought “Python 2,” about monster snakes
and a film about people fighting Death
itself, called “Final Destination 2.”

(These are both sequels and though no great shakes
they’re better than both first films.) And then Death,
the monster snake, ate the movie store, too.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Dead Butterfly Flapping

My Two Favorite Monster Snake Movies

Monster Snakes And Sexy Tee Shirts

Meanwhile, In An Abandoned Strip Mine...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Amy Winehouse In The Sea Of Crises

Last Friday the Moon was close in the sky,
just past two hundred thousand miles away.
I took out my telescope and—to play—
pretended Amy Winehouse had stopped by.

She fell, vomited. I didn’t care why.
I observed at low power. Amy lay
in the cold grass, groaning. She’d sit up, sway
and collapse back down. The Moon was east. High.

“There’s the Sea of Serenity,” I said.
“The Sea of Clouds is to the left and down.
Far right’s the Sea of Crises. Bet you knew.”

Pretend Amy Winehouse asked, “Am I dead?
Is this fucking puke on my evening gown?”
It was fun having someone to talk to.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Clana, Lexana: Loving Lana

On the TV show SMALLVILLE they explained
at great length Clark’s relationship with Lex.
But though they dealt explicitly with sex
they never explained why Clark’s love maintained

so long for Lana. We know why Lex strained
to win her—his love for Clark was complex.
Lex knew Clark loved Lana. If she loved Lex,
Lex felt contact with Clark as Clark’s grief reigned.

I think I understand the villain’s love.
Among my thoughts there are shadows, twisted,
that “love,” not love. Something like evil schemes.

I’d like to understand the hero’s love.
In my thoughts there’s a light that resisted
vile reason and still loves. Something like dreams.

Friday, December 12, 2008


The words we type on our computer screens
appear in what users call a window.
The program understands the window’s glow
just as ordered collection sub-machines —

a text box, controls, look-and-feel routines.
And the operating system can know
only byte addresses and maps that show
address ranges, substrates, what read/write means.

If I type, say, ‘TRIXIE’ I know so much
about the word-on-the-screen I could teach
students about exactly what they see.

I can’t address knowing Trixie-as-such —
ordered, collected thoughts are beyond reach
and I know I will never know Trixie.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wabbit Twacks

What if cities could get up and walk away?

Would Los Angeles get up and walk away
from all the stars, wannabes, hangers-on, drones
and everyone else who calls that city home?

I wonder if Chicago has had enough
of business commuters on buses and trains,
of travelers and tourists off the constant planes?
If Chicago could walk, would Chicago leave?

We had a light snow a couple of nights back.
In the morning I walked for a newspaper.
I found a lot of tracks all around my house.
I used to think tracks like that were from wild life.
I used to think of stray cats, rabbits, raccoons.
But maybe the tracks were made by real wild life.
Maybe cities of the world have been snooping
outside my house at night, trying to peek in,
trying to figure out what I like and don’t,
betting among themselves which city I’d choose
if I could get up, if I could walk away.

When I do someday get up and walk away
I hope the city of my dreams is still there.
I hope it hasn’t gotten tired of waiting.
I hope it hasn’t gone for a walk, taking
its museums and sidewalk cafes with it.

I read the final draft of this piece out loud.
If cities are outside listening, it’s a clue!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Year Winds Down #1: Michelle Wie

As the year winds down—and it can’t end soon enough for me!—over the next few weeks now and then I’m going to be picking and choosing some loose ends here at the blog to tie up. Some will be personal, some will be theme-related and some just will be odd.

I’m going to start with one of the odd loose ends I want to tie up.

A few months back I poked some fun at Michelle Wie. [Michelle Wie And Bigfoot ] I’m still no fan of this strange young woman, but I want to be fair in the blog’s coverage of her.

Back in August, Wie had failed to earn enough money during tournament play to be considered a professional golfer by the standards of the LPGA tour. In order for her to play on the LPGA tour next year she would have to attend a playoff tournament called Q-school. Some sports writers speculated that she would consider herself too important to play a qualifier tournament. Others suspected she simply wouldn’t have the commitment to the game to play the qualifier. Others suspected she was simply washed-up and would retire at 19.

But Michelle Wie did play Q-school. She played erratically at the qualifying tournament, but finished tied at 7th. Since the top twenty performers at Q-school get their LPGA card, Michelle Wie got her card and is now a professional golfer. [Wie clinches 2009 LPGA Tour place]

Sorry I doubted you, Michelle!

Now the speculation is about how regularly she’ll play, how well she’ll perform and how big of a draw she will become among fans.

It will be an interesting season for the LPGA.

Nobody but Wie knows how regularly she’ll play.

She’ll be competing against players like Paula Creamer. Creamer’s performance at the ADT Championship was one of the coolest sports stories of the years. [Crippled Creamer misses title despite dramatic hospital dash] Will Michelle Wie have what it takes to compete—again and again—with that kind of passion and skill?

About the only thing that is probably cut-and-dried is the fan support Wie will receive. Golf fans are—possibly—the strangest sport fans in the world. They have great appreciation for skill, for the quiet passion that goes into winning at an individual game like golf. At the same time, however, golf fans love a freak show. I mean, golf fans LOVE a freak show. The continued popularity of John Daly is an underscore of this weird fact. [Appreciative gallery loves rogue Daly]

So, Michelle Wie can expect great support from the fans.

And the press coverage of Wie should be interesting. One reporter has already pointed out that Wie is 19 years old, so she no longer has youth on her side. [!]

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Souvenirs From Wisconsin

I don’t want to go back there, but I know
the answer is somewhere in Wisconsin.
I’ve fallen away from that state, broken,
a piece of glass held to a candle’s glow.

A mirror fragment. A reflected show.
That’s me, but that isn’t the Magdalene
holding me. No Grail here, just tea and sin.
And the Wisconsin state line. I won’t go.

That isn’t the Magdalene, that woman
at the mirror, but she drove the death trip
the same way I did. Fog. Cheese shops. Highways.

She doesn’t offer the Grail, that woman,
not the answer, but what she gives, I’ll sip.
We are souvenirs from the death trip maze.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wisconsin Death Trip

Monday, December 08, 2008

Young Belinda And The Old NFL Camelot

I don’t know much about what goes on behind-the-scenes at the NFL.

But if some NFL insider ever wrote a book chronicling the transformation from the old NFL to the new NFL, that’s a book I’d like to read.

I’d like to know how the NFL transformed itself over just two generations from what it was as the old NFL—professional athletes who looked up to and tried to emulate phenomenal performers like, say, Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett—to what the NFL has become today, the new NFL—a corporately financed extended gang of divas, cement-heads and thugs where erratic, would-be journeymen like, say, Donovan McNabb and Adam Jones are looked to as career and character templates.

I suspect an NFL apologist would say that no business could maintain, today, social standards comparable to what they were forty years ago because society, today, is profoundly different from what it was forty years ago.

This reasoning is not overly persuasive to me.

The world of professional sports is not an emergent world, driven by forces of nature outside of anybody’s control. The NFL is built on players who come out of the college football system. And the college football system is built on decisions made by the staffs of our country’s colleges.

If the NFL needed and/or wanted players of character and skill—hell, if the NFL needed and/or wanted players who could all read and write—then the corporations and alumni and grant organizations would make those needs and wants known to the decision makers in academia.

I strongly suspect the NFL is getting exactly the kind of players the NFL wants. I strongly suspect the NFL has become exactly what it wants to be.

Why any organization would want to be what the NFL has become, however, is a very good question.

Tom Landry at Wikipedia

* * *

This is the finished version of the pencil rough I put up last Wednesday. [Unfinished Cartoon #1]

I thought of the caption while I was doing the final pencil corrections, before adding color.

I like this cartoon, but I like it mostly because I’m interested in the topic, the change between the old NFL and the new NFL. Because I did the drawing first, there was no explicit link between the image and the caption. And the caption didn’t suggest to me any particular color scheme, not even an indoor or an outdoor approach to shadows.

I kept the color very simple. This is all just Crayola crayons on top of the pencil rough, there are no colored pencils or pastels of any kind here.

Sooner or later I’m going to have to bite the bullet and start using acrylic paint and brushes. And I’m guessing that sooner or later I’m going to switch to dip pens for the captions.

This was just pencils and crayons and a maker on bristol board.

Even as I type this I’m thinking that as much as I’d like to polish things up a bit by using acrylics and a lettering pen, I really like—I mean I really like—the simplicity of creating something using just pencils, crayons and one marker on paper.

Who knows what the future holds?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Muskie Light Switch

    1. MUSKIE

A muskie is a freshwater game fish,
a large freshwater game fish related
to the common northern pike, but larger.
Muskies are so large that men and women
fishing for them are called muskie hunters.
Muskie hunters use lures the size of mice,
and it’s not uncommon to use real mice.


A light switch changes the state of a light,
off changes to on, on changes to off.
Sometimes a light switch changes the brightness,
dim becomes brighter, bright becomes dimmer.


MUSKIE LIGHT SWITCH has seventeen letters.
Rearranged they spell: THICK WIG MISSLE HUT


Apocalypse of the shaggy bright mice.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Muskie Wikipedia page

“Muskie” is sometimes spelled “Musky”

Musky Hunter Magazine link

“MISSLE” is how shaggy bright mice spell “MISSILE”

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Heaven From Hell

So you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail
A smile from a veil
Do you think you can tell
And did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts
Hot ashes for trees
Hot air for a cool breeze
Cold comfort for change

And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage
How I wish—
How I wish you were here
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl
Year after year
Running over the same old ground
What have we found
The same old fears
Wish you were here

Back in 1986 I finished my third novel, “Sightings: A Novel About Bloody Wild Evolution.”

Sadly—damn it—“Sightings” like most of my writing remains unpublished. Damn it. Damn it! Damn it!

[sighs] Anyway . . .

So, I wrote this novel, “Sightings,” about a little known aspect of the Goblin Universe. It’s not entirely unheard of for people in crowded, urban areas to report seeing bigfoot creatures. Just like people in rural areas see what they take for a large, hairy, ape-like creature that lives in the woods, people in big cities, even cities like Chicago and New York, sometimes report seeing exactly the same kind of large, hairy, ape-like creatures. Cryptozoologists who may be open to the idea of an undiscovered ape species in the wilds of North America typically ignore urban reports. The urban reports usually appear in UFO literature where the urban bigfoot creatures are treated as some kind of ‘slaves’ to the beings who fly UFOs. But Forteana writers aren’t judgmental and generally embrace absurdity, so Forteana writers usually accept the urban reports at face value, note that they contain essentially the same content as the wilderness reports and then move on.

I thought it would be fun to treat the reports of large, unknown urban primates seriously, in a nuts-and-bolts adventure/romance/science fiction novel after the fashion of a Michael Crichton-type book.

So I did. I thought of what was, hopefully, an acceptably intriguing and acceptably reasonable explanation of how evolution and natural selection may have created such creatures, how they may have remained undiscovered by science until now and what would happen in major cities if a large, unknown primate suddenly began appearing in urban areas and aggressively attacking people.

It was a fun novel to write. I think it will be a fun novel to read, someday, when I can get a publisher to bring it to market. Damn it.

[sighs] Anyway . . .

When I first conceived of the novel, before I wrote down anything, I imagined one scene in particular that would illustrate the difference between humans, animals and humans who lower themselves to something less than animals. I was planning the scene for toward the middle of the novel. Two scummy men would kidnap a woman, capture one of the urban bigfoot creatures and then lock up the woman with the creature. The men intended to sell video of the creature ravaging the woman. The creature, however, being an animal, quickly kills the woman and prepares to eat her. The scummy guys, disappointed, go into the enclosure to try to prod the creature into doing more and end up getting killed and eaten themselves. The point of the scene was to have been that there are humans who have become far more monstrous than anything the animal kingdom can generate through evolution and natural selection.

I started writing and the main characters and main plot moved along very nicely. When I arrived at the middle of the novel, however, I was so involved with the main action that I hesitated to write the scene about the two scummy guys kidnapping a woman. Even in a novel about marauding monsters rampaging and killing people throughout Chicago, it seemed too unpleasant to create the scene with those two scummy guys being lower than animals.

I never wrote the scene.

I got all the way through the novel, had animals killing people, people killing animals, said everything I wanted to say about bloody wild evolution, but I never wrote that one scene that was part of my original thinking for the novel.

Part of the reason was craft—I wanted to keep the tone of the novel on track, exciting, not bogged down into a claustrophobic kidnap sequence.

But another part of the reason has to do with one particular conception of Heaven and Hell.

I no longer remember where I first read this, but some people believe that when we die we don’t go to a classically Christian Heaven or Hell. Rather, we go to a place that is built entirely around what we imagined, wished for, dreamed of—and what we struggled to bring into reality—while we were alive as human beings.

What we imagine in this world, what we approximate by craft, our creations in this world, will be given to us completely and perfected in the next world.

If a person imagined/created nothing, just went through life doing what they were told, what was expected of them, then their afterlife will be featureless and bland, an eternity of the kind of nothingness they approximated here on Earth.

If a person imagined/created good art, good entertainment or a good life—imagined/created good feelings among others, warm relationships with friends, supportive love among family—then in the afterlife such people will spend eternity with the art they created, made real, their fantasies made real, their good thoughts and good actions perfected.

If a person imagined and created bad art, bad entertainment, devoted themselves to fantasizing about nightmares and actually caused pain, suffering and tribulations, such people will spend eternity experiencing the nightmares and grief they devoted their life to, but their suffering will be so much more extreme because their tribulations will be perfected, not approximations.

I don’t know that I whole-heartedly believe in this conception of Heaven and Hell. But I think it’s a good one. It is a metaphysics of you reap what you sow.

Simply by my nature I work with the intention of creating things that give people something to smile about or something intriguing to think about. I don’t want to contribute in any way to the nightmarish, idiotic, dark, violent, dehumanizing nonsense that seems to define the art/entertainment/pop worlds today. First, I don’t want to do it because I see no value there, it doesn’t make anyone smile except sad, seriously dehumanized souls and genuine psychos. Second, somewhere in the back of my mind or down in my deepest secret soul I wouldn’t be surprised if that conception of the afterlife turns out to be true—when we die we transition into some kind of larger reality where we will reap what we have sown.

Even though I’ve built my would-be career on writing about monsters and weirdness (and people trying to enjoy a little romance while dealing with monsters and weirdness) I wouldn’t be too afraid to find that God has Crafted for me a kind of afterlife terrarium built out of all my fantasies and things I’ve written. A little afraid, but not too afraid . . .

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Unfinished Cartoon #1

This is what one of my cartoons looks like after about an hour’s work.

Normally I come up with a caption first and then do the drawing, but sometimes I like to start with a drawing just as a change of pace.

This is a cartoon without a caption after two sessions of about 20-30 minutes each. So far this is just graphite pencil on bristol board.

Yesterday, in the first session, I put in the pencil rules for the caption area and sketched in a rough layout of the features and light/dark areas. This morning, in a second session, I deepened the dark areas and fine-tuned the features a little bit.

I’ll probably do one more session with only graphite, fixing the features quite a bit. The neck, nose and eyes don’t look quite right yet. And I’ll take the dark areas much further down, to almost black, using graphite and a stump.

Then I’ll do a session laying in colors roughly, using some combination of crayon, soft pastel, hard pastel and colored pencils. Then another session rendering the colors more fully, trying to kinda/sorta approach the look of acrylic without actually using a liquid medium with brushes. Then a final session with anything handy, tweaking everything into a final cartoon.

I can put the caption in at any time along the way. First I pencil the letters, then ink them with a Pigma marker. I’m not really happy with the look of a marker for lettering. But I just don’t have the energy to use a dip pen. That’s the look I like, but I need to find a way to achieve it without actually doing it. (Come to think of it, that’s a problem I have in many areas of my life...)

This stage is one of my favorite parts of drawing. Things are far from perfect, far from finished, but part of me would be happy to stop here. It already “looks” like what I want the finished image to look like and from now on every touch I make to the bristol board I’m going to be nervous about making sure that I take the image further but don’t “lose” the look I’ve already achieved.

One of the coolest thing about having computers and scanners is that a 300dpi scan of a rough like this pretty much makes sure that even if I screw up completely going to a final, this rough will never be lost completely.


Too bad we can’t scan ourselves, save ourselves as roughs and then if we fuck up our life, just go back to an earlier version...


Oh, as soon as I typed “scan ourselves” I remembered a cool song about scanning ourselves:

Here at Laughing Pines
Where the party never ends
There's a spicy new attraction
On the Funway
You can scan yourself
For traces of old heartaches
The details of desire

Shimmering, shimmering . . .

Yowie! - It's Connie Lee
At the wheel of her Shark-de-Ville
We're cruising at about a thousand miles an hour
But the car is standing still
So good to hear that crazy laugh
To hear her whisper, 'Hold me tight!'
To learn to love all over again
On that warm wet April night

    Swing out
    To Lake Nostalgia
    Route 5 to Laughing Pines
    Get off at Funway West
    Drive into Springtime
    Drive into Springtime

Easter Break - '66
A shack on Cape Sincere
Mad Mona baking gospel candy
It was a radical year
We get a little silly
And fall into microspace
It's even better this time around
With Coltrane on the K.L.H.

    Swing out
    To Lake Nostalgia
    Route 5 to Laughing Pines
    Get off at Funway West
    Drive into Springtime
    Drive into Springtime

It's you and me honey, in a crowded booth
At the Smokehouse in the Sand
I'm dragging out some bad old gag
When you touch my hand
At 4 a.m. we go out of this place
You look absurdly sweet
We hike downtown to Avenue A
Like we own the street

    Swing out
    To Lake Nostalgia
    Route 5 to Laughing Pines
    Get off at Funway West
    Drive into Springtime
    Drive into Springtime

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Fluffy And The Three Stooges

This could be suffering
This could be pleasure
I’m unaware of any difference
My head is aging
My balls are aching
But I’m not looking for deliverance

So far as I know, Fluffy the cat does not have access to the internet.

I’ve posted that I don’t know—don’t really want to know—what Fluffy gets up to at night. [After Dark] It’s a wild world, but I don’t really think she gets out, goes to Kinkos and reads through this blog.

That having been said, I don’t think Fluffy knows I went public with my suspicions she is trying to kill me. [Oh-Oh. If Cats Could Fly... (The Poem)]

And that having been said, I am nonetheless concerned because she seems to be stepping up her attacks.


Fluffy is a long-haired cat and one of the consequences of living with a long-haired cat is that you have to vacuum a lot. I mean, a lot.

A couple of weeks ago I grabbed the vacuum from the utility room.

Now, the sound of the vacuum motor scares Fluffy so as soon as she hears the machine rattling as it comes out of the utility room she runs and hides. Fluffy is very good at hiding. Sometimes she hides in one of the bedrooms, sometimes behind the microwave, sometimes behind books or junk on one of the bookshelves. And she often just sort of disappears and then sort of reappears when the vacuuming is done.

So, I grabbed the vacuum from the utility room and by the time I rolled it into the living room and plugged it in, Fluffy was nowhere to be seen. She was hiding.

So, I vacuumed the living room, the hallway, the two south bedrooms and then got to my bedroom.

First I vacuumed the area next to the entertainment center where I exercise in the morning. Then I got to the area around my bed.

As I pushed the roaring vacuum toward my bed, Fluffy came shooting out from under the bed. She had been hiding there.

That’s when I put on a Three Stooges episode all by myself.

As Fluffy ran out from under the bed, I tried to push the vacuum cleaner to the side so that there would be no chance of me hitting Fluffy. At the same time, I tried to move both of my feet out of the way to give Fluffy a clear path to the door. When I put down my right foot, it landed on the cord of the vacuum cleaner that I was trying to push aside. The force of me pushing the vacuum cleaner was just strong enough to knock me off balance when the cord jerked under my foot. But I had already started moving my left foot so there I was tipping over and neither of my feet was firmly on the ground.

So I fell.

But I didn’t fall all the way to the soft—and by then reasonably clean—carpet.

The hard wooden bedpost at the foot of my bed stopped me from falling all the way to the soft carpet.

And the hard wooden bedpost caught my fall by catching my body between my right leg and my left leg.

Yeah. It was just like being a young boy on a bicycle and falling off the seat onto the crossbar.

I know that sound doesn’t carry through outer space, but I strongly suspect that the astronauts on the International Space Station heard me scream.

Fluffy, of course, by that time was gone, hiding somewhere else.

First I laid around for a while on the soft—and reasonably clean—carpet, banging my head against the floor. Then I got up and limped through the rest of my vacuuming routine. Then I took a long shower, alternating the water between very hot and very cold.

By the next morning, when I looked at myself in the mirror, it looked like, you know, Little Einstein was standing next to one of those giant Halloween pumpkins people grow.

I could barely sit down for a few days. It was kind of like trying to balance on a cantaloupe that wasn’t quite directly underneath me, a cantaloupe that was armed with knives and hat pins to stick in me if I put too much weight on it.

Over time, the swelling has gone down. But it hasn’t—still!—gone away completely.

Every time Fluffy looks at me I think she’s snickering.

As if I didn’t have enough going on in my life right now, I have to deal with this going on, you know, down there . . .

In the morning when I weigh myself naked and pass the mirror it looks like, you know, Little Einstein is carrying a briefcase in his right hand and an overnight suitcase in his left.

A few months ago Fluffy had blood work done. The vet told me she was generally healthy and none of the blood tests showed any specific problem. But he warned me that by cat standards Fluffy was very old. She’ll be twenty years old pretty soon. The vet warned me that I should prepare myself for Fluffy being a senior citizen cat. He said that even while there is no specific health issue with her body, the blood tests showed that she is an old cat.

I think Fluffy knows that she’s an old cat.

I think Fluffy is plotting to take me with her, you know, when she goes . . .