Total Pageviews

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lunchoids #1

Tangerine as Anglerfish!

quite a bit cuter than the real anglerfish

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Monkey Stuff

Trying to come up with a cover for the comic, "The Monkey and the Ghost Ship."

watercolor on plywood

paper cut-out shadow puppetry, with cardboard strip

Monday, December 26, 2011

Writers @ Florida Intro #3

Ok, I was really out in the wilderness on this one. I don't think I had even had a conversation with Oz, so I was basically introducing a total stranger. I solicited a few personal facts from her by email, but, as you will see, I didn't even see how "Oz" was derived from "Astrid." (pronounced "AHH-strid," not "ASS-trid.") Oz was in the fiction-writing track, not in the poetry group with me, so I didn't know her work, her voice, anything. Hence the random plate-spinning horseplay of this intro. To draw attention away from my ignorance, I made a prop cereal box where her name was the brand—something like "Astrid O'z." She must have like that part, because she wanted to keep the box after the reading.

Oz Spies

"Oz Spies, Oz Spies, Oz Spies, Oz Spies"—if you say it enough times, does it start to make sense?

I don’t get Oz Spies yet. When she gave me some stuff to say about her, she told me, “feel free to embellish or lie as much as necessary to make me sound exciting.” Oh Oz, you are exciting.

Oz’s real name is Astrid. I heard Dr. Losano won’t call her Oz, so I guess he’s left with either Astrid or Ms. Spies. The exciting thing about this is not that one name is weird, or that the other name is weird, but that she changed from one name I’ve never known to another I’ve never known, WITH ABSOLUTELY NO CONNECTION BETWEEN THE TWO. It’s like putting bread in the toaster and getting back a warm TV Guide.

As far as I know, the only thing I have in common with Oz Spies is that she was raised in Littleton, CO, and I wore a black trenchcoat in high school. She’s lived in Seattle, Portland, New Jersey, and Colorado. She’s worked as a law office secretary, a dance instructor, a choreographer, and as an extra in Ernie Bushmiller’s classic NANCY comic strips. After combing through miles of microfilm, I found some of her finest work. Here she is in the selfless role of Miss Cream, always letting the comedic glory go to that gosh-darn prickle-headed ham, Nancy.

Excited yet? You don’t know the half of it. Oz Spies’s name contains the name of one of America’s most beloved traditional desserts, the pie.

Oz Spies occuPIEs the 76th position on the periodic table and is thankfully among the roughly 100 naturally occurring elements. Typically there are more protons than neutrons in Oz Spies.

Oz Spies can ALWAYS hear the ice-cream truck coming up the road, and can identify over 900 distinct ice cream flavors blindfolded.

Oz Spies operates on an apparent solar day of 24 hours, and her equinoxes precess 360 degrees every 26,000 years. One teaspoon of Oz Spies weighs in excess of 12 billion tons.

And if that’s not enough, have you guys tried this cereal? (hold up cereal box)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mighty d12 Perfected

Although d20 still mocks my constitution and evades my craft, the soccer-ball-sized d12 is now complete. Here it dwells in adventurous environs, awaiting the toss of fate.

Complete with recessed numerals. Skull = "1"
Is it geometrically precise? No. But it weighs six pounds.   

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Woodcut in Progress

Because this woodcut has been a drawing for a long time, and it's technically demanding, I took some pictures at a few stages, mostly because I worried I'd screw something up. So far, I haven't really blown it, but I'm not finished yet.

Nearly finalized drawing. Rarely do I go beyond pencil on the block, but this one seemed intimidating.

Started cutting. Added bird in upper right.

Cut most of the trickiest stuff. Adding some black to give more punch and ink-roll support. Decided against weird marsupial and carved him out.

Test print of upper portion. Mostly delivering the desired effect.
Whittled down a few of the branches. Tried wavy lines through the hips to boost the translucency idea. All the lower vegetation was easy, especially the white-on-black wintercreeper leaves.

Prints nice in first few tries, on my salvaged file folders. The background fell into place with some of the simplest vertical nicks and dots. Only thing I'm not sure about is this sharp "chin-strap" line on the jaw. It made sense in the drawing stage, but not so much now.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Case for Bookstores, Part 2


For some time, my Book Rack visits often coincided with those of a guy I named Mr. Controversy. He was an uber-talkative, gregarious fellow with a scruffy beard and 2-3 extra humans worth of heft, mostly around the mid-section. Pretty sturdy, though—closer to Hacksaw Jim Duggan than pre-subway Jared. He took it on himself at least twice to help Doug clean up and organize a section of books, which was nice, but it also planted him firmly in the mix for hours at a time. He specialized in un-PC, contrarian statements, such as, "Everyone in government should be lined up and shot, and I'm NOT kidding." Also in the business of sexist statements, he made comments only memorable because they made me respond with such uncharacteristic drivel as, "Well, let's just be glad my wife's not here for that one." He was the sort of guy who has a quick, semi-witty answer to everything, and he seems entertaining at first, but after five minutes, you realize he's a classic bullshitter. A jolly, helpful guy in some ways, but full of it, and full of being full of it.

Mr. Controversy was apparently pro- recent Frank Miller but anti- recent Grant Morrison. Specifically, he claimed to love Miller's All-Star Batman for it's ridiculous abusive violence, but hated Morrison for killing off the first Batman, etc. I don't think there was any real reason for his opinions, other than to disagree with me, and gleefully stir the turd. Actually, Turd Stirrer might be a better name for him. Christian Turd-Stirrer, because one day we got into a conversation that ended with him telling me, in all sincerity, that I should try talking to God.

I should have known better. He sucked me in by telling Doug, as I was checking out, that there was no way for a person to have morals—or be much better than an animal—without believing in God. This argument is sort of a pet peeve of mine, since it is one of the stupidest, cheapest views of humanity available, the same as saying that you'll only do right if you think there's some omniscient Superdad who will reward you or punish you accordingly. I think Doug was just looking at his computer and absent-mindedly saying "u-huh." So, I had to say something in defense of non-believers. I'd like to think I might defend them even if I were a believer, because I'm AMERICAN enough to know that you don't have to be a monotheist to be moral. So I pointed out that I fixed the roof of the Book Rack once, for no money, just to be helpful. Doug said, "Yeah, that's right," with just enough emphasis to suggest that he was either on my side, or re-thanking me for the repair, or sick of Mr. Controversy yapping all the time. Unfortunately, it led to that mild proselytizing we've come to expect from Christians. Not the loathsome kind from yesteryear, but still enough to goad me into fueling the argument with a few personal details. Finally, he asked me if I ever tried talking to God, which is a disarming move. I said, if I had, it had been many years—maybe as a kid. He said I should try it. I said something conciliatory, like, "Maybe." Then he went back to insulting women or something. When I left, he jokingly said, "Bye, and God Bless You."

The funniest part of these situations is Doug. He knows he needs to stay out of it, since he could lose customers by taking a side. So he gets a little nervous and stays pretty quiet. I've noticed a few times, pointing out, "Doug really loves it when these debates sprout up." He gets a nervous grin and says, "You're not supposed to talk about that stuff here. Just talk about Batman or TV shows."

This may seem like an argument against bookstores, but even when people annoy me, I think it can be a good test of will, and a good source for stories (and isn't that what a bookstore should be?). That said, I learned to ID the guy's vehicle so I wouldn't have to go in if I didn't feel like bantering on that level. One day I saw it and just drove on by.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Writers @ Florida Intro #2

A fine example of pushing bullshit to its limits in lieu of actually reporting on anything. I never quite delineated Molly's role in the following creation myth. Hopefully it went without saying, that she would take the job of the Moon in this primordial cosmos.

Molly Kugel

Before the tide of time swelled, before the sun and moon were boiled from the sea, there was only water and darkness. There came to be a stick floating upon the water, and the stick grew into a great tree that lashed out with roots reaching to the bottom of the sea, pulling up mud to make places to stand. In every place to stand, there sprouted a tiny Burt Reynolds, and soon there were countless miniature Burt Reynoldses standing around in the dark crying like a bunch of babies. The big tree mentioned earlier got sick of the crying Burts and tried to find something to feed them. But since there was only mud and water, the Burts starved, cried, and died in massive numbers, creating a rich soil capable of sustaining crops, which still could not grow because of the total darkness.

Luckily, about this time, the roots of the tree poked into a buried egg that broke open to release a ball of fire that rose up and burned the shit out of the One Tree as it became the Sun. All the remaining Burts laughed, because they were jerks, but they were good with their hands. They made a dugout canoe from the scorched tree trunk. Soon they were all going around in this big canoe, from island to island, harvesting the crops that now flourished in the fertile sun and Burt-dirt. Lucky for them, the dominant crop was a primitive form of organic corndog, exactly what they liked to eat. But the sun was always up, so all the Burts got bad sunburns and cried again like wussies.

Finally, an ethereal, New-Age-type voice came from above, saying, “Shut up, you guys” and “Why don’t you kill yourselves?” But they didn’t listen. Some grew bigger than others. Bigger ones ate littler ones until there was one solid 12-mile-tall sunburned crying Burt Reynolds eating handfuls of minuscule corndogs. The New-Age-type voice took earthly form and turned out to be Molly Kugel with a gun. Molly shot Big Burt and made his body into the mountains, and his blood became rivers. She said in her New-Age voice, leave some of those corndogs for me.” She also said, “I wish I would have given Chad Woody some bio information before he wrote this hogwash.” She used the word hogwash because she once lived with the Amish.

I also understand she can “do your colors,” whatever the hell that is, so any of my students here for extra credit, if you can get Molly to do your colors, write them down and you don’t have to write the half-page review.

Folks, it’s Molly!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Writers @ Florida Reading Series Intros

"Psychedelic Sluggo," one possible interpretation of Benjamin's ethos.
Twelve years ago, midway through grad school in Gainesville, FL, I inherited the mantle of MC for the reading series where we grad students read our work to an audience of mostly ourselves and our students, coerced by extra credit into being there. The torch was passed to me by the great William Bowers, whose previous year's introductions had been sublimely mindbending. He seemed insistent that I must be his successor, if for no other reason than my willingness to laugh at unjustifiable references to ninjas, and a critical exploration of the word "shitass." He also sensed that if I did not take the job, audiences might be doomed to endure blandly serious intros dripping with quid pro quo displays of quasi-respect.

Since many of my poems from those days are steadily self-demoting into juvenilia, these intros may be the best slab of my Florida legacy. If nothing else, I got away with a lot of squirrely hokum. People seemed to actually look forward to it.

*Lost Bonus Material*
In the tradition of William Bowers—as well as Carrot Top, who also attended UF—many intros were accompanied by props, maps, graphs, puppet shows, etc. This particular intro was accompanied by a visual display, which was an undershirt I stripped down to, showing a map of the south with some sort of comedic distortion, drawn on with Sharpie. I can't remember the details, but it illustrated the South as bloated until it took up most of the country... something to do with me not knowing the difference between Asheville, NC and Nashville, TN.

Reading #1: Benjamin Pryor

Several weeks ago, I told one of my roommates, “I find myself wishing for some kind of serious asshole among the new MFAs—some shitass who’ll just come in and piss everybody off and start fights in workshop.” He told me I should take the position myself, not to expect anybody else to do what I wanted done. I knew that wouldn’t work, knowing myself to be more of a cowardly, lurking sort of evil than a slam-dunk, spit-in-the-face, out-loud dickhead sort of evil, which is what we sorely lacked in the program.

When the new MFA kids showed up, I was disappointed. Though there were a few more-than-functional mouths among them, none were the goon I’d hoped for. For one swell moment, Benjamin Pryor showed promise. I saw him roll a cigarette, saw in him the same already-sick-of-this-place sentiments I’d developed this time last year, caught a James Dean vibe or two, and noted his all-around strapping good health and “air of the scrapper.” Problem was, he wasn’t an asshole, a prick, or even a son-of-a-bitch. When I heard he had a hearty thirst for spirits, I rubbed my hands together and hoped for a mean drunk, but legend says the man who drinks with Pryor drinks with a sincere mountain man with a penchant for invitations for adventure—”LET’S GO!” he says—to rivers, miniature golf courses, slaughterhouses and ass-kickings.

Mr Pryor was born in Chicago, but is now more Duke Boy than Elliot Ness or El Train. This is the western North Carolina mountains talking—Maggie Valley, Haywood County, where his Cherokee bits originate, all polished off at UNC Greensboro with a 1995 BA in English.

Other Benjamin highlights:
    • worked as a dishwasher, a blacksmith’s apprentice, a banquet server
    • has a 4-year-old son named Ibai, which means “river” in Basque
    (hanging out with Basques: another reason to expect trouble from this guy)
    • played with such experimental bands as Heated Pony, Plank Franklin, Jerry’s Finger, and STUB

Finally, I believe he accidentally told me his philosophy for writing and more when he said (to my query concerning this introduction’s content), “Use whatever works for you. If you want to make up mutated or exalted things, that’s fine. No gondiddy. Adiboo mongobby. A beedesign. Peace.”

Please welcome Benjamin Pryor…

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Dream

Thanks for the Pancakes

I was pursued deep into a labyrinthine university structure. Down in a basement, among failed boilers, I found an unbreakable plexiglass pyramid containing coins and small toys from my grandmother's house. A gang of shambling, soulless assailants surrounded me. Smashing past them with the pyramid, I lost them deeper in the labyrinth but knew I couldn't go back, where they were in control. Complete darkness, then a glimmer of sun. Up a long, slanted stone shaft I crawled, to a rusted grate. My head and hands poked through into a bright porch floor where a small girl brought me pancakes to share with her pet rabbit. I knew this was the end of the line--going back was too dark and too dangerous. I would climb no higher on the ladder of contentment.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Case for Bookstores, Part 1

Christmas Cookies for Doug

Is Doug streaming Dr. Who or researching genealogy? You decide. may have a bigger selection, but your local bookstore can deliver a more fully immersive literary acquirement experience. Especially The Book Rack, because its precarious stacks of books could very well entomb the customer, given the proper nudge.

The following shall be a mini-history of The Book Rack from my viewpoint, IN REVERSE CHRONOLOGY, as well as an argument for the awesomeness of the non-corporate bookstore experience. But first you must grok the spirit of Doug, the owner and sole operator of this store. Yes, years ago, his mom helped out occasionally, but you can tell by the state of the store that a woman's hand no longer enters the equation. In fact, the last time an outsider had any influence on The Book Rack was when a fire marshal ordered Doug to move some books and clear some aisles, or he'd be shut down the following week. Compliance happened, but The Book Rack is a high-entropy vortex to say the least, and the books always rise again.

Now, let us take a trip in a book-powered Wayback Machine.

Last weekend, while gearing up for a Book Rack run, I laughed out loud at a new idea. Naturally, my wife wanted to know why I laughed, because that's how we get each other's attention. I said, "It would be sweet if I could create a secret Facebook campaign, powered mainly by pictures of Doug looking cold and downtrodden in his messy store, where the outcome would be that Doug gets inundated with Christmas cookies." My wife has been there just enough to know what would make the idea even better: "If you could get a picture of him wearing his old yarn shawl, that would be best." It was the perfect image: in the winter, Doug settles in at his computer and often hunkers under a brown, knitted shawl for warmth. Yes, people might respond to that with Christmas cookies! I took my iPhone with me. Unfortunately, the shawl was not in play, but almost as good, the gray sweater with moth-holes, as seen above. Also, the random bags, the window unit insulated with big bag, the trash-bag as shield for roof leaks, and the general lack of glory.

NEXT: Meet the nutbags!