Jun 28, 2007

Remember when comics were cool? Really cool?

When I check out some of the gems on this site, it just makes me sad that mainstream comics even exist anymore. There are still great comics, of course, but it isn't the same as it was even fifteen years ago. You're no longer going to find the best comics at the local newsstand or grocery store, meaning that most of them will simply never find a mass audience. The same mass audience, ironically enough, for which the medium was intended.

But that's really a side point. I don't care where it comes from, I would just love to see somebody put together a series like Weird War Tales or House of Secrets or Tales of the Unexpected. The talent is out there to make it flat-out awesome.

Jun 25, 2007

Bob Burnquist 01.JPG

Maybe I'm wrong here – I'm no professional after all – but I'm damn proud of that picture. Even more so at the large size.

It's part of this 46-pic set from the Panasonic Open, a skateboarding/BMX/FMX event that stopped in Baltimore this past weekend. I wrote a cover story about it for PressBox, then used my media pass to check out the goings-on Saturday (more info here). All in all it was a hell of an event and a damn good time.

And a nice chance to flex some amateur photographer muscles. My Sony DSC-H1 was up to the challenge, performing surprisingly well on the action shots. It's got 12X optical zoom and image stabilization built-in, and if that sounds like a free ad then I suppose it kind of is.

Jun 19, 2007

It's long-past time for me to have mentioned one of the best things going right now in terms of art and comics on the web:

The Process, by my friend and collaborator (on Borrowed Time) Joe Infurnari.

Joe's a true artist, and one of the best of them working in comics today. Whether or not you're a fan of Borrowed Time I highly encourage you to give The Process and the rest of the work on his site a look. You won't be let down.

I believe I've mentioned the name Richard Ford once before. I've been trying to do more non-Internet reading lately, and in keeping with that resolution I picked up Rock Springs last week on something of a whim. I'm only three stories deep but I feel safe in saying this: pick it up.

Ford is a lot like Raymond Carver (the two were acquainted) in that his stories deal with the complex, often terrifying details of supposedly unimportant lives. The trick for both writers is their astounding ability to convey empathy without ever seeming overwrought or condescending. You can't help but root for these characters even as you know no good is likely to come for them.

I've got little patience for novels these days, though I suspect it'll return eventually. I hardly need it between Ford and Carver, both of whom can be read and re-read endlessly, revealing something new each time.

Jun 14, 2007

Every now and then I remember a piece I wrote in the past and get curious about how it holds up. While reading an article about the state of book reviewing I recalled a piece I wrote in 2002 for Gadfly, about Bill Moody's Looking for Chet Baker.

The result can be found here. It's the only time I've written a dedicated piece about a book and I'm happy to say that, a few mistakes aside, it holds up pretty well. That's always nice.

Jun 12, 2007

Some sad news today from the world of entertainment and wonder: Don Herbert, better known as TV's Mr. Wizard, has passed away at the age of 89.

I have fond memories of watching his show on Nickelodeon, bearing witness to the wonders of the scientific world along with thousands of other kids my age. It's a shame that he's passed, but 89 is a good run and he accomplished a hell of a lot.

Is there an equivalent today? If there is I bet he's "extreme".

Jun 6, 2007

I'm sorry, truly. But I can't help it. This song has been in my head for about three days now, and I want to share that glorious torture. This is Summer Jam 2007.

Jun 5, 2007

If all goes according to plan I'll be helping my good pal Daniel teach a class in narrative illustration at MICA this fall. In coming up with a potential reading list I was careful to include Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. I'm looking forward to seeing how the students deal with Carver's approach of leaving meaning in the margins. Will they choose to illustrate what is said, or the infinitely more important world of what isn't said? It should be fun.

As I got to thinking about Carver, I got to poking around the Internet looking for more from and about him. I turned up an amazing find in this 1981 essay on the craft and process of writing. A sample:
In an essay called, simply enough, ''Writing Short Stories,'' Flannery O'Connor talks about writing as an act of discovery. O'Connor says she most often did not know where she was going when she sat down to work on a short story. She says she doubts that many writers know where they are going when they begin something. She uses ''Good Country People'' as an example of how she put together a short story whose ending she could not even guess at until she was nearly there:

''When I started writing that story, I didn't know there was going to be a Ph.D. with a wooden leg in it. I merely found myself one morning writing a description of two women I knew something about, and before I realized it, I had equipped one of them with a daughter with a wooden leg. I brought in the Bible salesman, but I had no idea what I was going to do with him. I didn't know he was going to steal that wooden leg until ten or twelve lines before he did it, but when I found out that this was what was going to happen, I realized it was inevitable.''

When I read this some years ago it came as a shock that she, or anyone for that matter, wrote stories in this fashion. I thought this was my uncomfortable secret, and I was just a little uneasy with it. For sure I thought this way of working on a short story somehow revealed my own shortcomings. I remember being tremendously heartened by reading what she had to say on the subject.
A rather large passage to excerpt, I know, but worth it all the way. And, in fact, you'd be foolish to avoid reading the whole thing, whether or not you pursue writing in some fashion.

Also, if you buy that Carver book or anything else from Amazon using that link it'll make me some scratch.