Next Week at Long Island University

I spent a few minutes this afternoon cooking up a flyer for the comics event that I'm organizing as a sort of farewell gift for my graphic novel students. The flyer's not my best ever piece of graphic design work, by any stretch of the imagination, but it gets the point across...

...the point being that Jessica Abel and Matt Madden will be giving a talk on campus next Wednesday.

One thing I am happy about: the way that the two panels I quote seem to be speaking to each other, or carrying a single thread of narrative between them. And, of course, if you know that Matt's fridge is actually in Mexico City, it's all the more amusing.

I'll try to make a brief post about their visit after it happens.

I'M RICH!

I got a raise!
A 50 CENT raise!
So that means after every 40 hour workweek, after taxes, I'll have a staggering SEVENTEEN extra dollars! Oh look out exclusive clubs and high-end shopping centers and mouth-grill jewelers, Isaac Marion and his invisible BMW are coming to town....

I'm Not Dead Yet

I apologize for the silence this last couple of weeks. I've been swamped, with one thing and another. This weekend it seems to be grading. Last weekend it was something else entirely. And a third thing before that.

But I was tidying up my desktop on my work computer the other day and I found this funny doodle, captured by cameraphone. I feel certain that it was drawn at Thai Taste, a restaurant downtown in New Haven where they have paper on the tables.

This seems to have been at a moment when I was exuberant with the discovery of Tom Gauld, who is now one of my favorite cartoonists. I heartily recommend that you check out his website, and that you purchase some of his stuff, perhaps from Buenaventura Press, the good people who distribute his things here in North America.

There you go: a doodle and a recommendation. I think I know how to label this post.

BMW

In the commercials for BMW’s new 1-Series model, their new slogan is:
"You. The Road. Nothing Else."
Dramatic, right? Using my new space-age computer pen, I drew a web ad to go along with the concept of their new campaign. I hope they like it.








Finally, a BMW I can afford!

Growing Older

You may notice in my profile to the right that my age has increased recently. Half a century plus a decade plus three years equals sixty-three years. I have discovered that the experience of "growing older" becomes more meaningful as my age increases. The key, I think, is to focus on the "growing" and not the "older". Each year of life is an opportunity to experience, learn, and create. I am reminded of these words.
Good friend, don't forget all I've taught you;
take to heart my commands.
They'll help you live a long, long,time,
a life full and well.
Don't lose your grip on Love and Loyalty.
Tie them around your neck, carve their initials on your heart.
Earn a reputation for living well
in God's eyes and the eyes of the people.
Trust God from the bottom of your heart,
don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he's the one who will keep you on track.
Don't assume that you know it all.
Run to God. Run from evil!
Your body will grow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life!
(from Proverbs, chapter 3, The Message//Remix,
The Bible in Contemporary Language by
Eugene H. Peterson)

Happy Easter

Mary, John, and I experienced a delightful Easter weekend visit to Savannah, Georgia. Skies were mostly blue, the sun was warm, and the temperature was in the high 70's. We arrived from Florida on Friday afternoon, visited a quilt shop and the 8th Air Force Wing Museum. In the evening we walked the riverfront and had seafood gumbo and beans with red rice at the Bayou Cafe. On Saturday we took a historical trolley tour of the city. We were able to see the wonderful old buildings, the beautiful squares, and learn the history of the city. John even had the opportunity to play keyboard and entertain at an art gallery in The City Market. Lunch was at the historic Pirate's House where we dined on fried chicken, lima beans, collard greens, scallops wrapped in bacon, and other delightful dishes. Sunday morning we were blessed to worship at The Lutheran Church of the Ascension. This historic church is home of a vital and active congregation. Easter morning worship included a bell choir and a trumpet player. Following worship we attended a breakfast with a petting zoo in the church basement. It was a wonderful way to celebrate Easter morning.

GOOD EVENING MR. GRUBSWORTH

I got lunch today at a grimy little Mexican migrant taco bus in the Rainier area ghetto, and they were playing Boards of Canada’s Music Has the Right to Children album on their little stereo. No, not really, but for a second I thought they were. Can you imagine?

Later, I was walking on the street and stopped to tie my shoe. I’m a guy whose shoes come mysteriously untied all the damn time. I don’t know if I’ve ever in my life seen someone else stopping on the street to tie their shoes, but I do it all the damn time. I don’t understand it. Very annoying. I bent down to tie my shoe, and noticed a little skirmish taking place in miniature on the sidewalk, a little ruckus, a kerfuffle if you will, between several ants and a grub of some kind. The ants were gathered around and on top of the grub just whaling on it, just kicking this grub’s ass, and the grub was doing its defensive manuever/dance move that involves it pretty much just thrashing back, forth, back, forth, sorta writhing on the ground in a gyrating motion that I could imagine being potentially sexy on a different body type, like maybe something with limbs. And as I watched this battle take place, this little frou frou, I considered intervening to break things up, as I didn’t really like the idea of multiple ants ganging up on a fat fleshy turd that doesn’t even have limbs. But then I realized that I probably didn’t like whatever nasty species that grub was going to turn into anyway, so I just walked away.

THERE WILL BE BEES

Spring is coming, people...time to get prepared...






STEVEN AGUILAR COLOURED COMMENTARY:

"Haagen-Daaz has a new flavor--I am not making this up--Vanilla Honey Bee. Sounds delicious right up to the Bee. There's a little note on the carton: "Honey bees are disappearing and no one knows why. We're donating to Honey Bee research." I know why. YOU'RE CHOPPING THEM UP AND PUTTING THEM IN ICE CREAM. You think I'm going to buy your ice cream now? It's endangered AND unsafe. What if i bite into a stinger? This is the same reason I stopped eating chocolate covered Bengal Tigers. "

Quilting Festival

We accompanied Mary to a Quilting Festival in Trenton, Florida. It was a beautiful warm day for the event, here are some pics.

Girls Comics in Old Blighty (ca. 1984)

In my six weeks in England, I have purchased but a single comic book: a used hardcover annual that I bought as a surprise for a friend back in the States and have already surrendered to the Royal Mail. When I took it to the Post Office for shipping, the two women behind the counter recognized it with surprise: “Oh, it’s Mandy! I used to read that!” “It must be an antique!” Sure enough, it’s a pretty old comic (cover-dated 1984), and it was apparently meant for such as those women in their youth, for Mandy is subtitled For Girls.



Its target audience is clear enough not just from the subhead (duh) but also from the table of contents, illustrated with about twenty figures of girls engaged in various solo leisure pursuits—mostly of the sports and arts varieties, though the girl at the top and center is shown reading. Oh, and there’s one other tip-off that it’s for girls: the recurring feature “About Horses,” offering factoids about galloping, show horses, horses in mythology, etc. Mandy makes an interesting point of comparison with those crappy Marvel & DC comics from the 70s and 80s that Isaac has been blogging about. The Mandy anthology, produced by uncredited artists and writers for Britain’s D.C. Thompson comics company, offers a curious mix of short comic pieces, stern moral warnings, contrived coincidences, and grim wholesomeness.

Now admittedly, I am far from Mandy’s target audience, being an adult American male who read other comics entirely when I was a lad, but I found the proceedings rather cheerless, even when it sought to be funny. The stories are at times alarming in the merciless judgments meted out to wrongdoers, whose crimes might be fairly minor (one self-centered girl is cursed with permanent physical disfigurement just for refusing to help an old woman—a gypsy, of course—negotiate some stepping-stones across a stream). The overriding narrative formula owes much to the “gotcha” style of storytelling found in EC horror comics or O. Henry stories (not that I’ve read much of either, but you probably know the type of cheap ironic reversal and heavy-handed coincidence commonly associated with such works).

The heroines of the pieces include the following specimens:

• a penniless orphan, whose nearest relative tries to defraud her of her inheritance (he fails, but when in the final panel she smiles about being in “a cosy room of [her] own, with true friends at last,” the only other person visible in her spacious surroundings is the maid, who isn’t looking at her);

• another penniless orphan, who feigns infirmity to win the love of her foster parents (with ironic consequences befitting its EC-style presentation);

• a chronic invalid in a hospital, the optimistic Smiley, whose scheme to help another invalid backfires (causing Smiley to have a bit of a relapse herself);

• a fourteen-year old with a terminal disease, who ministers to other homeless children (her “dear waifs”) in Victorian London (and whose own impending doom is forecast in her nickname: “Angel”);

• a girl with the “Gift” of dream-clairvoyance, who is terrified of what truthful portent she might see when she next falls asleep (with reason, given that the last panel shows her dreaming the dates on her own gravestone);

• and a friendless new student at a girls’ school, who finally makes friends by delivering a piece of misdirected mail to a classmate who’s home sick with the flu (thereby deciding that the best way to make new friends is deliberately to drop a piece of mail addressed to herself, rather than, say, joining the circle of friends of her new flu-ridden pal).

Having seen the women at the Post Office, I’m reasonably confident that reading Mandy wouldn’t necessarily prevent a girl from growing into a well-adjusted adult. Still, the proportion of indigent invalid orphans, socially awkward schoolgirls, and luckless victims of slavery and witchcraft in Mandy makes the prospect of reading a contemporaneous Flash comic by Cary Bates seem positively life-affirming.

But there’s more to Mandy than enslaved ambassador’s daughters who look as if they’ve been drawn by Adrian Tomine:



There are also unexpected glimpses of British tastes in television program[me]s and home decorating:



(Not a bad likeness of Hoss Cartwright, that. Fun fact: Britain’s SkyTV satellite network currently has a dedicated Bonanza channel!)

And what American eater of pancakes √† l’am√©ricaine would have pictured Aunt Jemima thus?



Great-aunt Jemima there provides one of the few happy endings in Mandy, in a tale of Charmette, the trendy fairy who loves to grant wishes. How trendy is she? Check out these “awesome” mid-80s fashions!



That’s just how I remember the 80s, all right. (Fun fact #2: When I first lived in England in the mid-90s, there was a season when the shopwindows in London featured fashions in orange and lime green; compare the shirt stripes and the hair colo[u]r on the second woman in the “Trendies” magazine spread, above)

But alas, all too often Mandy traffics in heartbreak. Here’s Becky Brown, formerly resident at an orphanage, but now in the loving care of Mr and Mrs Lyons, who believe her to be a cripple:



Becky in fact has legs in good working order, but she pathetically believes that the Lyonses only sympathize with her because of her supposed infirmity. So Becky resolves to keep up her pretense of cripplehood—after all, that way she can keep “nice things” like her new cat, Snowy.

But alas, cruel fate! When fire attacks the Lyons home, Becky uses her legs to rescue her foster parents, temporarily knocked out from smoke inhalation; but when she races back to rescue Snowy, horrors!



Becky survives (though Snowy is seen no more), but the doctors tell her that now she’s a cripple for real. Just to twist the knife a little more, the story has Becky ask her foster parents if they would still have loved her if she’d had the use of her legs. “Of course,” answers Mrs Lyons, “it would only have increased our joy.” And the penultimate panel offers a closeup of the tearstricken Becky. Cheerful, no? (Actually, the final panel offers a rare bit of relief as the creepy narrator, an EC-style emcee known as “the Storyteller,” returns to reveal that Becky’s doctors hadn’t counted on medical advances, for five years later she would learn to walk again. Great!)

Amongst all these tales of woe and mistreated girls, there is a remarkable exception in the opening tale of “Valda, Girl of Mystery.” Valda lives in the Canadian Rockies, where she looks after the wildlife and assists Canadian police and military figures in their patrols against poachers and other malefactors. Valda possesses a “Crystal of Life” that maintains her youthful vigor, keeps her warm in all weathers despite her skimpy garb, and restores life to a mortally wounded wolf cub. It also gives her powers of command and strength in the service of her sternly administered justice, of a kind with that of Fantomah, the fierce enforcer of jungle justice by the now-famous Fletcher Hanks. Mind you, the unnamed artist of “Valda” lacks Hanks’s distinctive drawing style and sense of design…



… but her character is surprisingly like Fantomah in her independence, her absolute moral certainty, and her chilly imperiousness.

All in all, Mandy presents a weirdly threatening moral universe for its young readers. And while the endpapers offer a quiz on superstition designed to shame those who overdo it with the lucky charms, the tales trade often on magic, mystery, and the occult. No wonder one of the waifs in the story of “Angel” has such a downbeat take on Christian theology:



If you want to learn Angel’s answer to the waif, you’ll have to get your own copy of Mandy for Girls (1984). Mine is out of the house, and I’m not looking for another!

New Haven Postcard Sketch from Dupuy & Berberian

Shortly after Isaac posted about his "Twenty Minutes from Home" postcard series, I received one of his cards--number 17,676 in his years-long routine of postcard sending. It's always a pleasure to get to read a card in Isaac's handwriting (as opposed to his lettering, similar though it be), and occasionally he'll throw in a little doodle. This time, though, he asked a couple of ringers to provide a doozy of a doodle indeed:



My thanks to Isaac for procuring this memento of his recent encounter with Philippe Dupuy & Charles Berberian, two of our heroes in the pantheon of collaborative cartoonists--and thanks to the artists themselves for their friendly cartoon greetings!

Florida lifestyle




Well, we have been here three weeks now and I am finally adjusting to this Florida lifestyle. The pace is slow and relaxed, the sun is warm, and the opportunities to experience nature abound. Earlier this week we traveled to New Port Richey to visit with friends Don and Betty. They are staying in a beautiful home on a canal with a pool. We had a lovely 24 hour visit. Mary and I were celebrating our 41st wedding anniversary on Tuesday so Betty was kind enough to take John to a movie so that we could celebrate. Mary and I visited Tarpon Springs where we enjoyed a wonderful meal at Hella's Restaurant and Bakery. We had scallops, shrimp, fish, and vegatables all cooked Greek style. All of it was delicious.

lets make this work

i really dont know why i am doing this? maybe this will keep me more organized.

NEWS - i am showing 5 pieces at INTERMEDIA ARTS for the 55408 show. the opening is friday at 7:30pm to 11:00pm. intermedia artis is located between 27th and 28th ave on lyndale.

- i will be out of the mpls area for the greater part of april and may. myself and the inkala will be slinging atmosphere merchandise throughout the lower 48 and parts of canada. eh...

- i am getting ready for a group show at the SOO VAC . i am making new work for this show. this will hang sometime in june and will run into august.

- i am also getting ready for a solo show at the Rockford Art Museum in Rockford, IL.

- july and august of 2008 i will be out of minneapolis and working on art out in the country. cheers.

METHOD MAN holding shoes i painted

My Odd Postcards of New Haven

For a while last summer and fall I occupied myself with a project I called "Twenty Minutes from Home," which was partly an art project and partly just an excuse or exhortation to get me out of the house. I'm planning to start it up again soon, now that the weather is softening a little bit, to get my last long look at New Haven before I move north to Vermont.

The rules of the project were as follows: I would walk away from home for twenty minutes, exploring and wandering, and at the end of twenty minutes I would stop, look around, find something interesting, and take a picture. Sometimes I'd take another picture or two on the way back home. The best of these pictures got turned into postcards and sent around to my friends and correspondents.

It was a good project. I got to know New Haven better (even after living here for more than a dozen years), and I got to know my camera a little better, too. And, as I said, I got out of the house.

Now I've got a bunch of extra postcards of New Haven, enough to write to nearly everyone I know and still have leftovers. So I've decided to offer some of the extras to anyone who's willing to pay me a little for them (mostly to cover the cost of shipping). Let's say I'll send you a dozen for $3.00, or all twenty-four different cards for $5.00.

Here's a look at what you'll get:

A lot of the cards are what you might call "urban archaeology" shots, like this image of the underside of a small railroad trestle, out east of State Street:


And here's a shot of some of the crumbling masonry on the side of the Winchester Repeating Arms plant, which has been derelict for years.

Those are pretty images, I think, but not the sort of thing you'd see on a typical picture postcard.

Some of the images are more specifically New Haven, like some of my shots of Yale buildings, or this image of the annual New Haven Road Race in progress down Whitney Avenue:


I like to try to juxtapose different sorts of things, like the old headstones of the Grove Street Cemetery up against a background of a Yale building. (I think they learn Engineering in there.)


I also like little architectural details, which New Haven has in abundance, since it's an old town. Here, for example, is a satyr leering from the base of a flagpole on Beinecke Plaza:


... And here's a second-floor wrought-iron dragon's-head finial from a building on Orange Street.

The building displays the name Emerson in the same ironwork, but I don't know whether that's still the name of the building.

,,, And sometimes, just to remind myself that it's not all urban archaeology, I go for a walk in East Rock Park.


Here's a nice shot of nature and architectural detail overlapping. I saw pictures on the front page of the Register recently that looked a lot like this, but I was there first. It's the nest of a red-tailed hawk, I think, in the frieze up near the roof of the courthouse building, facing the Green.

So: the images are things like that. I haven't posted all of the best ones.

Now, wouldn't you like a dozen of those? Here's a button that'll let you buy 12 for $3.00, postpaid.
If you want more of a particular KIND of card, let me know, and I'll skew the random sample over in that direction.

And, in case you want the full set of 24, here's a button to get you those for a discount ($5.00, postpaid):