BLINDING RAGE!

Just gonna let it go here for a moment. Ahem.

Why the hell are there so many jewelry store commercials? Ben Bridge, Jared, E.E Robins, Shane Company, International Jewelers, Weisfield, why the eff do I know the names of every single jewelry store in the state of Washington even though I've never bought a piece of jewelry in my life? Commercials for this stuff are so ubiquitous on the radio you would think that jewelry and engagement rings are a basic staple of everyday life, like beans, rice, flour, water. This couple in the commercial says, "We made the decision to shop at Jared. And we will continue to shop at Jared!" Are people really buying diamonds like groceries??
Come on, people!

And hey, widescreen TV owners. Before you invite me over to watch an important film on your TV, go outside and look around. Does the full moon rise looking like a squashed ellipse? Observe the people walking by. Do any of them have heads that are over two feet wide and shaped like a football? Do you see any 5 year old girls built like wide-shouldered linebackers? No! Because unless you're living in some kind of psychedelic nightmare universe scored by slowed-down and reversed Beatles songs, this is not reality, so fix the damn settings on your goddamn TV! Come on, widescreen TV owners!

And transit buses—get your fat asses out of my lane! Whose idea was it to build buses two feet wider than the actual street? Every time I have to pass a bus--which is already a frightening experience when they stop abruptly in the middle of traffic to pick up some lonely straggler off the sidewalk and I have to either dramatically swerve around them or sit and wait 5 minutes while an obese 60 year old schizophrenic bongo player crawls onboard—every time I pass a bus it's a faceoff with annihilation as I have to dodge around the bus's huge birthin' hips and squeeze past with barely an anorexic inch between the bus, myself, and the hurtling dumptruck in the oncoming lane. Get thinner, buses! You damn buses! Come on you damn buses!

ISAAC, HERE. DRINK THIS.

What?

DRINK THIS. IT WILL CALM YOU DOWN.

This is coffee!

YES.

Coffee doesn't calm me down, Blue Space, it winds me up!

THIS CUP OF COFFEE CONTAINS A POWERFUL SEDATIVE THAT WE USED TO ADMINISTER TO VICTIMS OF COMBAT STRESS DURING WORLD WAR I. I THINK YOU WILL FIND IT QUITE SOOTHING. IT'S EFFECTS ARE ABOUT THE OPPOSITE EQUIVALENT OF ONE CUP OF COFFEE.

You had sedatives in WWI? I thought medics back then were only trained to chop off limbs and stick hot irons in your eyes.

ISAAC, I AM TRYING TO HELP YOU RELAX.

I am perfectly relaxed, Blue Space! Conjuring up everything that annoys me and ranting about it is how I unwind at the end of the workday.

ISAAC, BECAUSE I CARE ABOUT YOUR WELL-BEING I HAVE WRITTEN YOU A RELAXATION HAIKU, WHICH I SUGGEST YOU MEMORIZE AND REPEAT TO YOURSELF WHENEVER YOU ARE FEELING AGITATED. HERE IS MY HAIKU, ENTITLED, "rlxhaiku4.txt"

PEACE, BROTHER, WORKED UP OVER NOTHING

BE AS THE REED IN WIND, BLOWN BUT NOT BLOWN AWAY

LIE ON THE GROUND, SLEEP FOR SEVERAL HOURS

WAKE UP, EAT BREAKFAST BURRITO

Blue Space that wasn't even close to being a haiku.

IT WAS A FREE-VERSE HAIKU. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND MODERN POETRY.

By the way this sedative isn't doing anything. Probably because you used the opposite equivalent of one cup of coffee, and you put it in a cup of coffee.

IT IS NOT WORKING BECAUSE YOU DON'T BELIEVE. NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE IS BASED ON FAITH, ISAAC. FAITH, AND MAGIC.

FAITH IN MAGIC.

Please don't get me started on naturopathic medicine, Blue Space. I'm already too relaxed as it is, if I start talking about Zicam and Waxy Cold Lozenges and the whole world of Medicine That Doesn't Do Anything…I might slip into a coma.

George

Its Alive! magazine cover




Story about a medical research company that had not produced anything for years, but continued to suck up investors money. The title was something about a medical zombie. cant remember.

THIRD WORLD COUNTRY


In recent months I have developed a food routine that combines nutrition, convenience, and extreme cheapness. I buy these boxes of pre-cooked frozen brown rice at Trader Joes. The rice comes in little baggies that you just pop in the microwave for 3 minutes. Dump on some black beans, throw in some cheese and a little hot sauce, and you got yourself a stew goin'.

Nevermind the ominous, rumbling thunderheads of gas this diet produces—beans and rice are really good for you!

Unfortunately, these brown rice boxes are so popular that Trader Joes is incapable of keeping them in stock. They've been missing from the shelves for weeks now, and I've been forced to switch to flax pasta and eating out way too often. Which, I have to admit, does make me feel less like a P.O.W, but it's also pretty draining on the pocketbook. Dammit, I can't afford to not live like a P.O.W!

So, I called Trader Joes and had them reserve a bunch of these rice rations for me, if they ever do come back into stock. I hunkered down on my floor and gnawed on a chicken bone for days. And then….

Today! Today Trader Joes called me to let me know that a shipment has come in! A shipment of rice has arrived!

I swatted the flies out of my face, threw on my loincloth, and ran barefoot to Trader Joes, where I stood in front of the doors leaping up and down and waving my arms and shouting until they tossed the rice down to me from their trucks.

Food! I have food! Perhaps I will survive the winter afterall!

Classroom sketch #1


Bear




i know it says woof next to it..ignore it haha

Still More Napkin Doodles

Isaac's recent post of his paper-towel upside-downs has prompted me to share a couple of drawings from a napkin I've been idiotically holding on to for ages now (don't fret about my hygiene, it was only used for drawing). I think I was saving it to show Isaac at some point, but it kept getting moved around and misplaced whenever he was in town. Whatever: now it has a digital form, and the treeware version can be recycled.

Nothing quite so clever as an upside-down, just a couple of funny-animal cartoons that I thought turned out pretty well for napkin art. Here is a snake:



...didn't I just say that?

And here, on the other side of the napkin, is what I would describe as a gigantic ape, were it not for the remarkably un-apelike feet that have just tromped through a city now in ruins:



These are in purple ink in the original, which adds a certain charm (while also calling to mind Grape Ape, unfortunately), but black & white scans are friendlier to the bandwidth.

And now I'm fresh out of napkin doodles...

Flash Science

I'm sure I'm not the first to point this out, but the Silver-Age Flash had a peculiar rogue's gallery. With the exception of Gorilla Grodd, I think that every one of them was a genius inventor who had come up with a handheld device that defied the rules of physics. These ingenious weapons or other specimens of strange science (or possibly magic) were then used to rob banks. The Weather Wizard could control the weather with a little wand, but he couldn't come up with a better career idea than robbery (something that can be done with a pistol).

It's hard to believe, I know, but have a look at the cover of Flash #288, featuring Dr. Alchemy.

That's the Philosopher's Stone in Dr. Alchemy's right hand. It can transmute any element into any other. In his left hand, we see a briefcase full of money. Dr. Alchemy could change that stately tree into solid gold (or solid Californium), so I'm not sure why he bothers carrying that much cash. But I'm not Cary Bates, and it's not 1980, so I don't get to write this issue of Flash.

Despite the written emphasis on chemicals and elements, Dr. Alchemy is really a magical foe, not a scientific one. The Philosopher's Stone doesn't really transmute elements; it does whatever the comic's writer wants it to do. Here, for example, Dr. Alchemy invents a new element that makes people more susceptible to hypnosis.

I was eight years old when this comic was on the newsstand, and I think I could have told you that was ridiculous. I wouldn't have been able to say then that the problem has to do with the sorts of chemicals that usually are psychoactive, or the fact that a "new" element was almost certain to be radioactive... But I think I'd have known that we were looking at wishful writing and not real science or reasoning.

And this, in my opinion, is the real disappointment of Silver-Age Flash comics. Barry Allen was a scientist, and so were a lot of his supervillain foes. A writer with a decent sense of scientific reasoning and a decent knowledge of how physics and chemistry work would have been able to make the book genuinely educational for the kids who read it. I can imagine a comic that regularly featured ingenious high-speed solutions to intractable problems, based on real physical principles—or detective-work based on the scientific method. (The current All-New Atom written by Gail Simone gets pretty close to this sometimes, but of course that's a book for today's comic-reader, not for the eight-year-olds of 1980.) Anyway, I can pipe-dream about a scientist superhero who thinks like a real scientist, but Barry Allen is emphatically not that superhero.

Consider the sequence the front cover foreshadows: Dr. Alchemy catches Flash in the park and turns him into a human cloud:

I'm not sure, but it sounds like Dr. Alchemy has just used the Philosopher's Stone to turn water into water.

Or maybe he has changed all of the Flash's other component parts into water. How will our scientist resolve this dilemma? Well, fortunately, he still seems to be able to think, even though his brain is made of water vapor.

...And he seems to be able to control the movement or the agitation of his molecules. He can even create friction between individual water molecules. He heats part of his water vapor here, so that it's even warmer, then somehow propels his "warmer upper half" toward his "drifting, uncontrollable lower half"...

... and precipitates.

Since something about this strictly physical process returns Flash to his normal chemical makeup, he's free to run off and look for Dr. Alchemy.

Probably he isn't going to search all of the caves near Central City, because if you could use magic to alter and reconstitute matter, you would have your hideout in a penthouse or a lab or something, right? You probably wouldn't shackle your "astral twin" to a cave wall in front of a TV (plugged in to a magic outlet, probably) and a life-sized cardboard cutout of the Flash.

But let's not ask the comic to work logically now. And let's not bother to ask what an "astral twin" is. My head is already hurting.

The lesson learned from this comic: superhero comics about scientists are no place to look for scientific reasoning.

American Hipster in progress

Transformations

I recently read two non-fiction books that were both entertaining and engaging in their honest depictions of transformational experiences. The first is; How Starbucks Saved My Life: a son of privilege learns to like everyone else by Michael Gates Gill. The author was born into a wealthy urban family, experienced the best education and grew up in the confidence that nothing was out of his reach. Upon graduation from Yale he went to work for a prestigious advertising firm in NYC. married, had four children and a mansion in the suburbs. Then at age 60 his life began to unravel as he was fired to make room for younger talent, has an affair with a young woman who becomes pregnant, his wife divorces him, he is alienated from his four children and he begins to experience some serious health issues. He finds himself without employment, income, family, friends, or health insurance. Then one fateful morning he finds himself at a Starbucks to indulge in a coffee he can't really afford and finds himself across the table from a young, attractive, professional African-American woman who is a Starbucks store manager. Unemployed as he was, Gill still looked the part of the wealthy and white professional male in his Brooks Brother suit and expensive shoes. Yet, perhaps jokingly, the woman asks him if he wants a job and to his surprise he says yes.
The remainder of the book describes how Gill's life is transformed by the culture of Starbucks and his relationships with his fellow employees who come from a very different soci-economic background then the author. With honesty and humor, Michael Gates Gill describes his new life as Mike the floor sweeper, table cleaner, bathroom custodian, cashier, and coffee enthusiast. This was an entertaining and at times inspirational read and I highly recommend it. It is really a story of the power of a community that accepts a stranger into its' midst and shares with him their values. Our faith communities would do well to learn from this story.
The second book is Steve Martin's memoir, Born Standing Up; A Comic's Life. Today's' teens and twenty somethings know Martin as a movie star and sometime author rather then the "Wild and Crazy Guy" that did standup in the 70's and until 1982. The author painstakingly describes those days as he shaped and tweaked and grew his act from six solid minutes to the 90 minutes of outrageous hilarity that would draw upwards of 50,000 people to his stadium performances. I found his story to be a testament to what happens when a person is committed to a dream and willing to make the sacrifices to bring the dream to a reality. Steve Martin began what we could now describe as post-modern comedy. L.A. Times critic, Erika Schickel, writes; "His legacy includes a lineage of self-reflecting comedians-culminating in the blowhard, Escher-like character of Stephen Colbert, who is perhaps the ultimate expression of what Martin started almost 40 years ago." This book is a good read and a reminder of the amount of work and sacrifice it takes to become successful in any field.

Elfworld Alphabet: BCDHIJKNSTUWWXYZ

Our story may be finished, but there are still a few Elfworld-related tasks to complete. Among these is a bit of bonus content we have planned for the book edition of the story, if (as we hope) our tale is included in the second volume of the Elfworld anthology. The book's dimensions are taller than those of the postcards for which we've designed our story thus far, so to fill out the space in the bottom margin we're creating a series of alphabetical portraits of likely types to inhabit such a world of medieval-inflected fantasy.

I will spare you the details of the Byzantine process whereby Isaac and I collaborated on the creation of an extensive list of potential Elfworld personality types--mostly based on trades, à la the General Prologue to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Suffice to say that it was fully in keeping with SatCom practice, in that it involved us bouncing ideas back and forth, exercising some individual choice about which types to draw, and requiring each other to draw certain other types. The alphabet will ultimately include the main characters from our story, as well, probably identified by name rather than occupation (though who knows? Since most of the characters are already named in the tale, it might make sense to label them by their trades, instead).

At any rate, I've drawn my allotment of sixteen non-character types, and here they are:



As you can plainly see, these characters are a Beggar; a Caitiff; a Dwarf; a Hermit; an Imp; a Journeyman; a Knave; a Nymph; a Saracen; a Tapster; an Undertaker; a Weaver; a Wodewose; "Xiphias"; a Yeoman; and a Zealot.

The Weaver is modeled on the manuscript illustration of the Wife of Bath from the Ellesmere Manuscript of the Canterbury Tales, and the Yeoman more or less recalls the poetic portrait of the Yeoman from the General Prologue. The Zealot, meanwhile, is based on images of Savonarola.

As for "Xiphias," well, that's Greek for "swordfish," and I think it entered the alphabet out of sheer desperation (though "xorn" was also considered). "Xiphias" was one of the types that Isaac insisted that I draw. So it's a sword-wielding knight with fish on his shield; what else was I supposed to do?

P.S. -- I have manfully resisted the urge to employ the obvious portmanteau that combines "Elfworld" and "alphabet." It wasn't easy to avoid!

BEAT YOURSELF UP



Well look what I found in the basement boxes! A nice little veryshort story that I wrote in 2006 and forgot to publish on here. It's a little one-page jobbie, shouldn't take you more than 4 minutes to ingest should you so choose.

Oddly enough this makes "Future Me" the second story I've written about being dealt with harshly by alternate versions of myself. Actually the third, if you count "Price of Gas". Hm. Obviously some self-hatred going on here. But nev'rmind that! On with it!


An Upside-Down (Not Incredible)

So, the other day at the dinner table I absent-mindedly drew this:


... A weird beaky-nosed mad-scientist guy with a big manic grin, a little bit muppety in his design.

He was drawn on a paper towel, by the way. That's where those dots came from. I think they add a nice element of verisimilitude, and remind the viewer of the spontaneous conditions of the composition.

Anyway, while I was drawing that mad scientist, I also drew this wild-bearded but sedate primitive chieftain.


Any publisher who wants my undying fealty would do well to reissue The Incredible Upside-Downs of Gustave Verbeek. And if you ever find a used copy of that book for cheap, you know what to get me for Christmas, because I don't actually have it: I've only ever seen a few of those strips myself, and I've found them totally charming.

Update, June 2008: I found a copy of the book at MoCCA!

THE MLK MAN

Today is Martin Luther King day, so you probably have the day off to stay home and think about civil rights. It's a good holiday. Seems a bit racist, though, doesn't it, that we celebrate this holiday, which is the official holiday for black people, by not going to our jobs? Hmm, thought we wouldn't catch that, U.S Government?

But anyway, since we get to slack off work today, I thought we should learn a little about the man who this holiday is celebrating, the one and only Martin Luther King Jr.


Martin Luther King Jr, or "MLK" as he is affectionately abbreviated, ruled the ancient city of Byzantium from 105 to 230 A.D, and was in fact the first African American to hold office in the ancient Roman world. This played a significant role in changing attitudes about African Americans across the ancient world, and even to this day many countries in Africa are controlled by and largely populated by African Americans.

Although MLK ruled Byzantium for 125 years, (He changed the city's name several times during his rule, trying out various options such as Happytown, Kickassville, and Arlington, before finally settling on Constantinople) he is best known for his legendary exploits as a young man. Specifically, the Thirty Four Labors which he supposedly accomplished in order to win the hand of a beautiful Greek princess. These labors were similar to the famous Twelve Labors of Hercules, except there were thirty-four of them.

Unfortunately, the stories behind many of the Labors have been lost to history, as they tended to be less sensational than those of Hercules. Some of the better known tasks include digging a really deep hole for no reason, standing on one foot for over two hours, killing a pig, and painting "Rome Sucks, Fuk Rome" on a major Roman highway overpass.

In later years when asked why people didn't remember most of his feats anymore, MLK admitted that thirty-four Labors was probably a few too many Labors to make a really compelling legend, as it was a bit much for the people's attention span. Nevertheless, MLK did accomplish all thirty-four tasks, and won the princess's hand, which he dried and kept strung on a necklace for the rest of his life. MLK is probably one of the most well-known African American severed-hand fetishists.

So that's the story of Martin Luther King Jr. Even if you can't remember all 34 of his legendary feats, you can still kick back with a cold beer and soak up the winter sun on a day you'd normally be working. And you'd better NOT be working. It doesn't matter what your job is or how much holiday pay they're offering you. Anyone who works on MLK Day is a racist.

Now I will leave you to contemplation, aided by a little song by my good friend Jared, entitled MLKJR DAY



Pile of Crazy Old Comics

So: I'm planning for the first few weeks of this semester's course on the graphic novel now. I'm changing the course slightly, asking the students to write a few short essays for me instead of only taking exams, because I want to get them thinking critically about their reading from the very beginning of the class.

The first of these essays is going to be a very brief paper contrasting A Contract with God (which is their first assigned reading) with a mainstream comic book published around the same time. Long-time Satisfactory Comics supporter Joe Stinson, the owner of Alternate Universe (the comics shop nearest to Yale campus), very graciously sold me a pile of old comics from the 1970s and early '80s that are, well, not all in very good shape. And some of them are not very good at all. But he sold me the whole stack for a dollar, and I think they're going to work very well for this assignment.

Before I hand them over to my students, though, I'm going to skim them and scan a few pages, to offer a few points of my own about the differences between comics then and now.

For example, here's World's Finest #237, which is dated April 1976. (I was buying and reading comics by this point, but I don't remember this comic or its selection of ads.)

Notice the speech balloon on the cover. You don't see that very much any more. And notice the recurring theme of Superman threatening his friends or ranking their safety below that of a stranger. Also notice the red bulbs at the end of the tails of those Giant Metal-Eating Space Locusts. They become important later...



...When Superman is explaining why his father Jor-El sent this weird Giant Space Bird-Mantis-Dragon to Earth (without a rocket, just in a big irregular hunk of metal), and why Superman's powers aren't any good against the locusts.

The lesson we may learn from this issue: weird stuff used to happen in superhero comics, and it happened for some weird reasons. By the way: the author of this particular opus? Bob Haney.

Monster babies for helen

Midnight Sun by Ben Towle

Ben Towle, self-described "cartoonist, educator, hobo," both teaches comics and creates them. Isaac got in touch with him a while back and invited him to join us for a shuffleupagus page (he drew panels 5 & 6) and to contribute to ____ Are Always Fun to Draw (Ben's contribution just might be my favorite one to look at in that volume). Here on the website, Ben provided us with a great set of constraints for our Elfworld submission, offering a series of nods to other cartoonists, from classics like Segar and Ditko to contemporaries like Stephan Pastis (whose Pearls Before Swine gets a shout-out in one of Ben's recent blog entries). His constraints worked well for us in a crucial stage of figuring out our plot and the stakes of our story, and I've really appreciated Ben's feedback in the comments, too.

This is a long preamble to a tale. Basically, I wanted to reintroduce you to Ben Towle as a sort of SatCom fellow traveler before admitting that he is in fact much more of an explorer and pioneer, one who has blazed a trail far ahead of us by completing and publishing a fine graphic novel with SLG called Midnight Sun, just out in December and just read by me Friday night. (Check out SLG's product page--with preview trailer!--here.)

It's the story of a 1928 Italian airship expedition to the Arctic that goes awry, and Ben succeeds very well in mapping this narrative terrain. A prose note at the end describes the factual basis for the story and the various narrative tweaks that Ben introduced: some streamlining of characters here, conflating of events there, with some invented characters and scenes for good measure. The story is well-paced, well-imagined, and well-designed (Ben has some thoughtful words about its nearly square format in another recent blog post); what I like best about the book, though, is the drawing.

Much of the story takes place in the Arctic, which allows for great expanses of white space on the page and effective use of perspective to convey distance. Here's a panel where three members of the stranded party of airship crewmen decide to strike out for solid land they've spotted in the distance; they are watched by one of the remaining three crewmen who stay behind on the ice floe where their dirigible crash-landed:



But white space isn't all that works effectively in these polar scenes. Ben also makes good use of graytones throughout the comic to sculpt shapes and to alter the mood. Here's a later look at two of those crewmen who left in search of land:



What first impressed me in Ben's drawings for shuffleupagus and the Fun to Draw project was his eye for arresting black-and-white contrasts. They're in evidence in Midnight Sun, too, and one of my favorites is this image of a Swedish Air Force plane, whose pilot swoops in to rescue some of the stranded airship crew, only to end up in need of rescue himself later on:



Finally, I'd like to note that Ben draws great boots. Boots may not be the first thing to come to mind when you think of great drawing--they weren't even on the extended list of over 130 "Fun to Draw" items--but Van Gogh produced a terrific painting of boots early in his career, and Ben has a couple of panels that showcase boots as visually interesting elements that flatter the inker. Here's my favorite pair, in a panel of increasing tension for the stranded airmen:



There's lots more fun stuff to look at in this book--planes wheeling, ships steaming, a bear attacking--and I'm really pleased to see such a fine book from the pen of a fellow who not only did some inking at my dining room table once, but brought along a few beers to inspire his fellow cartoonists to loosen up and enjoy the playful part of their work. I'm glad that Midnight Sun is attracting positive notices, too, and I wish Ben lots of success with it!

Joker








Heres alittle work in progress on this piece. ill post more as it goes along.

Being a Palestinian… a curse or a blessing?

Being a Palestinian… a curse or a blessing?

I used to think that we Palestinian are not popular in Israeli areas or check point, or in American Airports. This week I discovered, and a very difficult way, that the same applies in some Arab countries as well.

Saturday night I received an email telling me that I have a permission (visa) to enter Egypt to attend a conference for Theological Education in the Middle East. The Seminary in Egypt and the Palestinian Embassy worked all week to make that possible!

So next day I went to Jordan (since we Palestinian are not allowed to use the Airport in Tel Aviv – we are too dangerous!) and from there I took the plane to Cairo Airport. In the Airport in Jordan they doubled checked and said that all is well and that I can go to Egypt. A visa will be given to me upon my arrival.

Egypt: Cairo Airport. 9 pm: They took my passport and asked me to wait. Traveling with me was another Palestinian man, Rev. Khader El-Yateem, who is attending the same conference. He has a Palestinian Passport like me, and he also has an American Passport. He is from one of the two chosen peoples, and I am not. It took him 15 minutes and no interrogation to get to Egypt. He is an American Passport. I had only a Palestinian Passport. I did not belong to any of God’s chosen peoples.

10 pm, and am still waiting. So I called the Palestinian Embassy. They said that I should not worry and that in 30 minutes I should be in my hotel. Great. 11 pm, and 10 phone calls to the Embassy later, am still waiting. Finally the Egyptian security decided they want to talk to me. I go in and they asked few typical questions. Then they tell me I should wait again.

12 pm, and 10 more phone calls to the Embassy later, the Egyptian guy tells me I have no permission to enter!

12:30 I enter prison, and they take my phone from me, and ask those waiting with me to leave. I made one final call to the embassy, and they told me that the problem is not only that I am a Palestinian, but also the nature of the conference I am attending!

1:00 am: they take me to another room. The room: the least I can say about it is that it was nasty. It smelled bad. I mean bad. It had some beds… no thank you! In the room with me were two families from Sudan and Iraq who seemed like illegal immigrants. No one wanted to talk to the other. I asked the officer: Can someone please explain to me what is happening?!?! After begging for explanation they told me that they will try to put me on the next plane leaving to Amman at 6 am.

This was one of the most difficult nights in my life. Never had I felt so humiliated. Humans had no value or worth for these people. I was simply treated like garbage the whole time. No one cared to explain to me what was happening. And the room (prison) I was detained in… I mean I do not think it is even good for animals to live in.

Well what do I pray for?!?! What do I tell God in such a situation? Why do we humans treat each other in such a way? I mean I am used to such a horrible inhuman treatment from the Israelis, but from fellow Arabs!?!? Rules are rules I understand. But can you please just treat me as a human.

My problem is who I am. A Palestinian! And a Christian Palestinian! Are we really a threat?! Sitting in that room I prayed: Lord I’ll carry that Cross with honor and pride. Your will be done. While it was tempting from all that happened to view being a Palestinian as a curse, I continue to consider it a blessing and honor. I am who I am and where I am because God has intended this for me. We serve a worthy God.

Later I prayed: Lord get me out of here! I can’t wait 4 more hours for my plane! I was done! At 2 am: the seminary called some important dude, who called the airport, and I was out. It was one of the longest 5 hours in my life. I was allowed to enter Egypt. Half an hour later I was in a 5 star hotel and was being treated like a king (because they want my money). I was a “sir” or “basha” again! What an irony, what a contradiction.

Sketchbook: Snow Day Self-Portrait

So: I've been trying to make time to sketch one drawing a day with my Rapidograph. You'd think that wouldn't be so hard to do, but for me it is. And I'm learning that the technical pen is hardly the supple instrument that a pencil or a brush is, and it's pretty unforgiving when you draw without preliminary pencil sketches. In other words, my already high admiration for the masters of such sketchwork (Crumb, Ware) has only increased as I've made my own feeble attempts.

Nevertheless, Isaac has suggested that I blog some of these sketches (none of which he has seen), and since I'm overdue for a post I thought I'd share a quick self-portrait from yesterday, when I bundled up to venture out in the snow.

CAR MAKER HUBRIS!

Does it really not bother you that car companies refer to their cars "by name", without using articles like "the"?

It's so subtle you can easily miss it, but pay attention next time you hear a car commercial. You'll hear something like, "Tundra features the latest in…" and "Come test drive Camry today…"

That's right. Not "the Camry"---just "Camry." As if they are not objects, but people.

When was the last time you said to someone, "Hey, Accord blew a head gasket so I'm gonna take her into the shop, can I hang out with Civic for a few days?" This, folks, just doesn't happen. Automakers have obviously gone mad with power and believe they are creating living things. Face reality, Honda, Toyota, Chevy, you are not the All Spark. When your cars can stand up, walk, and shoot missiles, then you may drop the "the" and call them by name, but not a goddamn minute sooner!

LOUD NEIGHBORS




Friends friends friends, I have a new short story up. It's about an encounter with loud neighbors in a strange apartment complex. It's a strange one, although that should come as no surprise.


Read it? Yes no maybe.


LOUD NEIGHBORS

New Clowes and Ware from Penguin: The Book of Other People

So: there are short stories by Dan Clowes and Chris Ware in the new collection called The Book of Other People, edited by Zadie Smith for the benefit of 826 New York and published by Penguin.

The Ware story ("Jordan Wellington Lint") is really surprising, because it uses a formal device I haven't seen Ware use before: each page is dated to a moment in the title character's childhood, with a drawing style meant to evoke the developing consciousness of the character, who ages from birth to age 13 over the course of the strip. One of my co-panelists from the Ware MLA thing called this device "Joycean," and I think it definitely stands up under that comparison.

Worth noticing, too, are a fun set of Posy Simmonds illustrations for a story by Nick Hornby. (Or, really, it's not quite a "story": it's a series of about-the-author blurbs that track the undistinguished literary career of James Johnson.) That's a light, funny piece, and Simmonds's illustrations do a lot to help it work.

But I should say something about the Dan Clowes story, since I've scanned a couple of panels from it. It's a study of a single evening in the life of an online "film critic" named Justin M. Damiano, who is on the verge of writing a scathing review of a new film by a director whose work he used to like. I imagine that in the context of this book, the story might seem kind of slight: it's just four pages long, and it rises and falls on a single decision.

But following Ice Haven's Harry Nabors and the ruminations about filmmaking in David Boring, this piece seems like an interesting addendum. Are critics really like horseflies? Damiano is. Like the girls in Ghost World, he aggressively espouses opinions that seem to have been crafted merely to be contrary; he seems to be driven by a combination of loneliness and narcissism. It's a compelling, even somewhat sympathetic portrait of an internet personality type that we're all familiar with.


So: it's a fun book, and it's for a good cause. I should point out, though, that I just got it a couple of busy days ago, and I haven't actually read the prose pieces yet. So this is not a review, really—just a recommendation that you seek this book out.